Perhaps no corporation benefited from the pandemic as successfully as Amazon.
With lockdowns in effect across the country and trips to brick and mortar retailers becoming an increasingly dangerous proposition, Americans turned to the giant internet shopping mecca to deliver their necessities quickly and safely.
While the company certainly provided an essential needed service, it also made billions in profit from the increased sales in the past year, doubling its profit from a year earlier despite increased costs associated with what Jeff Bezos describes as “incremental COVID-19 related costs in the quarter to help keep employees safe and deliver products to customers.”
One would think that with all this newfound revenue, the company — which has already raised salaries to the $15 per hour level that some worker advocates see as the minimum level to begin to allow employees to earn a living wage — would be willing to address the numerous working condition issues that have pushed some of its workers to seek union representation, a move that Bezos and company management strenuously oppose.
After several progressive legislators, most notably Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) publicly attacked Amazon for their anti-unionization efforts, the company’s executives mounted a social media counterattack, reportedly at the urging of Jeff Bezos himself who “expressed dissatisfaction in recent weeks that company officials weren’t more aggressive in how they pushed back against criticisms of the company that he and other leaders deem inaccurate or misleading,” according to a report on Vox.
When Senator Sanders made a trip to visit Amazon workers in Birmingham, Alabama to support their unionization efforts, Dave Clark, a senior executive of the company, took to Twitter to defend the company from accusations that its restrictive worker time management practices — which disgruntled employees say don’t even allow them sufficient time to use the bathroom — were abusive.
1/3 I welcome @SenSanders to Birmingham and appreciate his push for a progressive workplace. I often say we are the Bernie Sanders of employers, but that’s not quite right because we actually deliver a progressive workplace https://t.co/Fq8D6vyuh9
— Dave Clark (@davehclark) March 24, 2021
3/3 So if you want to hear about $15 an hour and health care, Senator Sanders will be speaking downtown. But if you would like to make at least $15 an hour and have good health care, Amazon is hiring.
— Dave Clark (@davehclark) March 24, 2021
Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI) saw Clark’s post and responded with a more accurate assessment of what actually makes a company eligible for being labeled “progressive,” immediately eliciting a snarky response from an anonymous Amazon corporate Twitter account.
1/2 You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us. The truth is that we have over a million incredible employees around the world who are proud of what they do, and have great wages and health care from day one.
— Amazon News (@amazonnews) March 25, 2021
Well, as it turns out, a lot of people — including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — do really believe “the peeing in bottles thing,” and AOC presented the evidence to prove that it is a real and regular practice (along with even more disgusting incidents) among bullied Amazon employees and was documented within the company’s own internal email.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 26, 2021
The stories and documents from the Intercept article that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez linked to completely undermine Amazon’s false denials of the inhumane working conditions that their employees must suffer under and expose the cynical union-busting media manipulation campaign that they are engaging in.
If Amazon can’t see fit to share some of their enormous increase in profits with the workers who make their business so successful — something that they could easily do by improving the working conditions that those employees are trying to unionize to change for the better — then Congress should accelerate the drafting of legislation breaking up the big tech companies that have come to dominate our economy.
When the world’s richest man can’t see fit to treat his employees fairly, Amazon employees must complete their mission to unionize for their own health and the health of others who may not want their merchandise delivered from rolling latrines.
Kudos to AOC and other progressive Democratic politicians who are standing up to the internet behemoth and fighting for the beleaguered workers.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.