Is Rep Tlaib right Bezos 'immoral' profiting off backs of employees?
- Jeff Bezos is an American entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Amazon.com. Under his expertise, Amazon became the “largest retailer on the World Wide Web and model for internet sales.”
- Rashida Tlaib is the Democratic representative for Michigan’s 13th Congressional District, entering office January 3, 2019. Tlaib and Ilhan Omar became the “first Muslim women to serve in Congress.”
- “Amazon is guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking.” They offer many products and services including online shopping, music and video streaming, and Kindle books.
- In recent months, Amazon “doubled” its yearly net profit to $5.2 billion compared to $2.6 billion in 2019. The company gained in profits after spending over $4 billion on “incremental COVID-19 related costs in the quarter to help keep employees safe and deliver products to customers.”
- On December 14, Tlaib criticized Bezos as “immoral for cashing in on pandemic at workers’ expense.” Many, including Tlaib, were shocked at the “unimpressive” holiday bonus for Amazon workers: $300 bonus for front-line and $150 bonus for part-time.
According to Business Insider, between March and June of 2020, Jeff Bezos saw his own personal wealth grow by 'an estimated $48 billion.' Yet, even with this wealth increase, Amazon's employees still struggle to get by, as the company is at the 'top of the list' of employers whose workers need to rely on government assistance. It is worth noting that Amazon paid no federal income tax in either 2017 or 2018 and very little in 2019, despite bringing in billions. MSN reports that the company has seen its sales increase by 37% during the pandemic compared to the same period last year. However, Bezos and other executives saw fit to take away the additional $2 per hour in hazard pay that workers had been receiving and 'phase out' the temporary policy of 'unlimited' unpaid sick leave, even in states where the law required such an approach. Employees have also reported unsafe working conditions at Amazon warehouses, including 'dirty air filters,' sick people being allowed to return to work, and the inability to socially distance.
In October, it was reported that nearly 20,000 Amazon employees had been infected with COVID-19, but rather than taking measures to improve the situation, Bezos and others at the top of the company chose to run a smear campaign against those speaking out about conditions in their warehouses. A statement from Amazon quoted by MSN claims they have a history of 'providing safe working conditions' and 'great benefits,' but the evidence suggests otherwise.
Successful businesses should not be condemned for making a significant profit. While Amazon has admittedly been more profitable than other companies during the pandemic, critics are neglecting to acknowledge that it has provided an essential service to consumers and job opportunities for employees. Yet, that has not stopped Representative Rashida Tlaib from openly chastising Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos by citing monetary concerns such as employee wages and claiming that he is 'immorally' profiting off his workers.
Many Amazon employees have spoken out about health and safety issues surrounding COVID-19 and the workplace. While these same individuals are lucky to at least have steady employment when so many have lost theirs, they are also free to seek work elsewhere if they feel unsafe or unappreciated on the job, given a free market economy. Rep. Tlaib and others are unfairly blaming Bezos for an economic concern that does not warrant intervention from politicians.
Sure, Amazon could likely improve working conditions based on employee complaints. However, it is a stretch to blame the company for COVID-related issues during undeniably unprecedented times. Following recent worker concerns, Amazon issued a holiday bonus to all employees. It reassured the public that its employees receive a starting hourly wage of $15 and also health insurance. Regarding other societal responsibilities, Amazon contributes to charities through its AmazonSmile program and founded the Climate Pledge in 2019 in an effort to be more sustainable. Bezos himself has also donated millions to various organizations. While critics such as Tlaib may conveniently forget these facts, they are important in noting that Jeff Bezos and Amazon are anything but 'immoral.'