Jeff Bezos – Historically Rich, Historically Corrupt.

“Emperor” Jeff Bezos, The Worlds Richest Man Ever…

And Maybe The Most Corrupted.

bozo bezos.jpg

On Tuesday April 24th, Jeff Bezos arrived in the capital of Germany to receive an award for innovation, one of the many awards and honors he has received in the last decade. Bezos is worth $125 billion as of today. For comparison, the next richest person in the world, Bill Gates, comes in at $90.4 billion. His company, Amazon, started in 1994 as a small online book seller within a cramped personal office and nearly broke. Today it is the biggest business the world has ever seen, earning him some honors indeed, including being the first person in history – royalty included – to be worth over $100 billion dollars.

He was met by several hundred Amazon workers as he arrived in Berlin. They held signs up with Amazon’s name and iconic boxes to greet Bezos. The workers weren’t there to congratulate Bezos on his newest accolade though; they were there to protest him and the conditions he subjects his workers across the world to. The boxes on the signs workers held were anthropomorphized with faces and bandaged, exhausted and sick with the phrase “make amazon pay!” everywhere to be seen. Some workers even came from neighboring countries (Poland, Italy) to show their disapproval of working conditions and pay.

Amazon employs 566,000 people globally, making it the 10th largest private employer in the world. Germany alone accounts for about 16,000 employees, being the biggest country outside of United States for Amazon employment. 566,000 is larger than most active military forces; were Amazon an active military, it would be the 8th largest in the world. Workers worldwide have complained repeatedly about low pay, long hours and horrible conditions that sound as though they could be straight out of an Orwellian tale.

One issue employees are organizing for is appropriate pay. Amazon claims it pays its average full time warehouse worker about $15 an hour with paid time off, sick leave and even vacation time. The median yearly income works out to $31,000 for the average Amazon worker according to them. A decent pay package (in comparison to US national averages) for single, under-skilled or inexperienced workers with no children or dependents. It’s better than a lot of skilled, experienced workers get even. America is debating a $15 an hour federal minimum wage among some legislative circles, making Amazon seemingly progressive in this compared to other companies. The issue is only a small percent of Amazon workers actually are full time according to numerous people employed by the web company, and many have to actually rely on food stamps according to recent reports.

Amazon representatives and spokespeople continually reach out to nearly every journalist covering this issue, claiming that 90% of its employees are full time and regurgitating a nearly identical version of this message:

“Amazon provides employees with competitive wages and regular pay increases plus Amazon stock and performance based bonuses. We also provide comprehensive benefits which include health, vision, and dental insurance coverage starting on day one, generous maternity and family leave, tuition for career education, and a network of support to succeed.”

That is a statement to the Intercept from Amazon on April 20th in response to a recent in-depth report written by Claire Brown about the amount of people filing for food stamp benefits employed under Amazon, which is a shocking amount. Amazon has been attempting to discredit these claims as much as possible and downplay any reporting of it.

“Amazon provides employees with competitive wages and regular pay increases plus Amazon stock and performance based bonuses. We also provide comprehensive benefits which include health, vision, and dental insurance coverage starting on day one, generous maternity and family leave, tuition for career education, and a network of support to succeed.”

Sound familiar? This was sent April 20th as well to The Splinter, again in response to an article written by Emma Roller reporting on the amount of people on food stamps from Amazon. A few days later Amazon doubled down on this statement elsewhere.

 

Amazon such original much wow.jpg

In an article written by Luke Barnes from Think Progress on 4/20, Amazon added some extra flavor to their response that evening, sticking with it for the days to come.

“Amazon is proud to have created over 130,000 new jobs last year alone. These are good jobs with highly competitive pay and full benefits. In the U.S., the average hourly wage for a full-time associate in our fulfillment centers, including cash, stock, and incentive bonuses, is over $15/hour before overtime. That’s in addition to our full benefits package that includes health, vision and dental insurance, retirement, generous parental leave, and skills training for in-demand jobs through our Career Choice program, which has over 16,000 participants.”

This was sent to The Daily Dot by an Amazon spokesperson on April 22nd in response to an article written by Phillip Tracy about the same issue with again the same wording. Amazon is simply blanketing this message across any reporting.

I’m expecting their response to mine anytime now.

All the articles detail that Amazon workers account for some of the highest amount of SNAPS filings in four out of the six states that responded to a public records request, making the list of top the 20 companies for employees to file for benefits in those states. Of note, in Arizona data indicates as many as one in three workers have to file. Pennsylvania and Ohio’s figures could be as high as one in ten. To be eligible for SNAPS benefits you have to make under $1,276 before taxes for a single person household. If you happen to make a cent more, the state cut all your benefits the second they find out. Yes, there are “exceptions and individual situations”, but coming from someone who has seen their family and countless other’s family and friends through the years, even myself at one point, need them to legitimately survive; the state doesn’t care. You’re cut off. Then you have the nightmare of appealing, while you no longer can afford food. For those who do have a family, the majority of workers, the cap only raises by $450 to $1,726 maximum amount of gross income for two household members. The amount you make at $15 dollars an hour per month is $2,400 though before taxes… something doesn’t add up with all these numbers and numbers very rarely lie. If you work forty hours a week, you need to make $7.75 an hour to edge underneath the $1,276 mark, a mere $.50 cents above the federal minimum wage.

Amazon isn’t outright lying though, to give them the benefit of the doubt. Their just manipulating the facts. That 90% full time claim is made up by an overwhelming number of temporary employees who are contracted out through temporary employment agencies such as Integrity Staffing Solutions. Amazon will hire workers through these agencies to fulfill a contract of “about a week to fifteen days” at full time, forty hours a week. For “between three to sixteen months”. In other words, every two weeks or so Amazon would renew their contract with their “full time” employee to work with them through the temp agency. What this does is allow Amazon to not pay any form of those benefits they rave about due to the employee not being an “Amazon” employee, but a temp agencies’ employee on lease. So Amazon pays the temp agency a bulk sum for the employees contract – negotiated between Amazon and the agency with no say of the employee – and saves themselves thousands of dollars per month, per person “employed” this way. The temp agency profits heavily as well, paying most workers just barely above minimum wage for their area for almost every job offered when it comes to labor. The agency keeps the worker going to the job by promising they are working toward “eventually being employed” at the company ,thereby getting the benefits and decent wage, though it rarely actually comes. Instead workers are strung along as long as both companies can, profiting all the way on the workers. Due to the this being such a widespread practice and Amazon’s heavy of coloring the conversation, it’s impossible to get a definite number for the amount of temp workers Amazon has; but it’s becoming a common practice across the entire global labor industry.

The other major issue the workers in Berlin met Bezos with protests for is that working conditions for Amazon’s employees range from vicious in-fighting in the offices to floor workers in warehouses and drivers urinating in bottles to be able to keep up with production quotas and fear of reprimands from bosses. Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld wrote an incredibly in depth article you can read here in The New York Times. Their report covers the angles of both the workers who enjoyed the push as well as those who didn’t or felt discriminated against. It depicts the harsh conditions involved across all of Amazon’s sectors, as well as the people who thrive in it.

“You can feel comfortable that if there’s a flaw in your plan someone will tell you to your face.”
– David Loftesness, Former Amazon Employee, quoted by The New York Times in August 2015.

“You walk out of a conference room and you’ll see a grown man covering his face. Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”
– Bo Olson, Former Amazon Employee, quoted by The New York Times in August 2015.

“Another employee who miscarried twins left for a business trip the day after she had surgery. “I’m sorry, the work is still going to need to get done,” she said her boss told her. “From where you are in life, trying to start a family, I don’t know if this is the right place for you.” ”
– Excerpt from The New York Times, August 2015

Most people would think being subjected to this form of hyper productivity and questionable work environment would come with an exotic or dangerous job such as an oil rig worker or crab fishermen. But this is happening right down your street probably, in an Amazon office or fulfillment center in your very city. The ambulance zooming past you may be carrying an Amazon employee in fact. Amazon warehouses are notorious for having no air conditioners, it being cheaper to station an ambulance outside instead to take workers to the hospital for heat stroke and such. Laws allow this form of behavior too, and certain judges – like Neil Gorsuch – do all they can to not just allow it but let it go further. In this case, even saying an employee should freeze to death or lose their job. That particular case didn’t involve Amazon in any way though, just to clarify.

America is one of the few places in the western world who still pushes their workers as hard as they do, for as little money and with little to no empathy. Emphasis on the western world, as that is not taking into account things such as sweat shops, slave labor or “suicide watch” places that are a giant problem globally still and Amazon for all their other flaws is not part of. The U.S. specifically has been declared “unparalleled” in corruption and wealth inequality by multiple measurements, often topping lists or coming within the top three. Our Gross Domestic Product, which measures how productive workers have been, has steadily increased since the sixties yet wages have barely budged. Graphs bring this fact into stark contrast, and can be tough to stomach when first looked at.

US_GDP_per_capita_vs_median_household_income

Jeff Bezos appears to like these numbers though and wants to take that worldwide, as is evidenced by his companies everywhere repeatedly scolding and disciplining his employees for attempting to organize for better conditions and pay, either by union or independently, even going so far as to terminate their employment in a recent case. Over one hundred temporary workers were fired in San Fernando de Henares, Spain late March. The workers at the time had set up and organized a strike on March 21st and 22nd to object to recent changes that significantly cut wages and benefits. In response, the day before the strikes were scheduled Amazon decided to not renew the workers contracts with their agencies. Another reason temp agencies are favored by corporations now, if an employee gets out of line they can toss them without any hassle. They don’t even have to notify the worker.

“Last Friday uncertainty was general because we needed to come on Monday [to the outsourcing agencies that sub-hired them], and we had no previous notice at all. We feared the worst,”
– Former Temporal Worker – Spanish daily El Español.

Amazon’s official response to the dismissals was that they were due to low demand in the region for their services. With Amazon claiming to have made 130,000 new jobs last year and expecting to make even more this year, who are they trying to fool? These employees were from the biggest logistics center in Spain, which has been steadily rising since 2012. In 2013 revenue in Spain for Amazon was €38 million euros, rising €8 million in 2014 to €46 million euros. Gaining another €9 million for 2015, nearly 20%, their total was €55 million in which they only paid €660,000 in taxes on. As of to their claim for low demand? 2016 saw them declare over €100 million euros revenue, taking almost a 100% jump in “demand”. These numbers may not even portray the full figures, as Amazon was served with a €2.2 million euro fine for underpaying taxes in 2016. Moreover, it’s close to impossible to say what they actually should be paying in taxes due to its international structure in the EU. Being run across countries opens open more tax loop holes than one can shake a tax lawyer at.

ceo-pay-squeezing-everyone-cartoon3tax field leveling

Tax avoidance is a titanic problem contributing to the the increasing wealth gap across the globe, and Amazon is a world class act at that. There may never have been any better. Amazon raked in a stunning $5.6 billion USD in profit for the fiscal year of 2017. Their total tax bill on all that cash? At the standard U.S. corporate tax rate of 35% that should have totaled $1.3 billion USD. Before Amazon’s amount is revealed, take a moment and just imagine how much money that is, and what you could do with all that. 1.3 billion is such a large number, the human brain can’t compute an image of what a number that large would be in single units of measurement like dollar bills or people in a stadium. Now, that magic number they paid in taxes? It’s a little easier for the brain to summon an image of, but almost as hard to wrap around. $0.00. Not. A. Single. Penny. In fact, their total ended up being Negative $137 million… meaning that Amazon this tax season will be receiving a one hundred thirty seven million dollar tax REFUND. Because; you know, Bezos is really depending on that refund for his fifth massive house’s payment. Unlike some people who actually do depend on their refunds to pay for things they actually need.

As if Amazon’s grubby hands weren’t dipping into enough markets for your hard earned money, now they want your bank account. Amazon has cornered a number of markets over the years since the book stores, to the point where you name it and Amazon probably sells it. One major area Amazon has yet to fully explore is actual payment processing and personal financial accounts. Talks with JP Morgan and Capital One aim to change that though. The extent of the project is yet to be revealed, but initial information says the retailer would target young customers and people without access to traditional checking accounts starting in the U.S. The latter is a surprising amount to some with banks being an integral part of everyday life to most, but an estimated two billion people worldwide don’t have access to a bank account, and 7.6% of Americans alone. Amazon could well become the largest bank worldwide if they can use their global reach to offer accounts to those people. The regulations and restrictions, including for taxes, would be a tedious process to work out for such an international undertaking though, possibly giving pause to consideration of the idea but likely only for a short time, if any.

In the midst of all these arguably unethical practices, Jeff Bezos tries to play it off as if he is just some regular Joe Blow. Constantly saying he is proud of his company and their standards and operations and such, he never mentions the allegations and reports of conditions and pay. He even tries to go so far as to seem like a champion of the people with the illusion of seeking to help the less fortunate. On June 15 2017 Jeff Bezos tweeted this out:

For starters, this shows the man has thoughts for nothing but his money. If you need to ask for ideas on how to help people when you founded – from the ground up – the largest web company ever that sold books to start and are worth at the time of that tweet more than $80 billion… its insulting honestly. He is pandering for your support, plain and simple. And remember, he now is worth $125 billion; in one year he has accumulated another $45 billion dollars, over 50% of his net wealth.

On a side note, the comments to this tweet do have some great ideas from people who genuinely are trying to help and promote some great charities, foundations and causes. It’s worth checking out to see how many people are trying to help others. It’s also worth checking out to read the wave of troll’s comments, “pay taxes” appearing frequently, that predictably washed through for some laughs. Some are a little graphic though for good taste, an image of a guillotine being one.

What could that $45 billion dollars Bezos made the last year have gone to? Some truly helpful ideas that money could have fully or almost fully funded are:

Senator Sanders Education For All: $47 Billion a year.

  • People always ask where we would get the money for this idea in a “it’s a socialist fantasy” tone. How about we have Amazon pay the correct taxes and back taxes it owes and Bezos funds it for one year. It would be a perfect trial run to see if it truly is worth it to the country and would give an immediate boost to the US education rate which has plummeted over the last few decades.

Housing For All: $20 Billion USD.

  • To completely end homelessness in the US, estimates say it would cost $20 billion dollars to build enough homes to house every homeless person in the united states. This being for the higher estimates of the number of homeless in the US which we have no confirmed number for. It is guessed that there are between 0.5 and 1.5 million people any given night that are without a home.
  • The Volunteers of America have long been working to end homelessness through shelters, supplies, job training and more. To learn more about them or make a donation Click Here.
    (https://www.voa.org/homeless-people)

Ending World Hunger: Estimated at $30 Billion a year.

  • Coming with a yearly price tag rather than a flat bottom line, this one is much more of a general estimate but would include; purchasing the lands required to grow, the supplies needed to keep crops healthy and rotating as well as energy costs associated with the undertaking. One issue with the numbers is that there are 7 billion people on the planet, so each person would eat off $4.28 for a whole year. Top Ramen stocks would skyrocket. Realistically to actually put food in every persons hands would require innovations in how we distribute and keep supplies fresh as well as farming methods and land use ideas. This leaves entire new markets to be created if someone were to take up the cause.
  • Rise Against Hunger has set a goal to mobilize the resources necessary to end this issue by 2030, and made great efforts towards that goal. To learn more about them or donate, Click Here.
    (https://www.riseagainsthunger.org/)

Cleaning the Pacific Garbage Patch and plastic landmasses in the Indian and Pacific Oceans: Under $500 million a year.

  • Between $122 and $489 million. As well as again creating an entire new industry to add even more profits. These patches are caused by our general world culture of over consumption fueled by companies just like Amazon. In putting so much toward consumption, any biological process has to have a waste disposal system in place or things like this begin to happen. Amazon could build an entire “colon” for the worlds consumption to deal with things like this, and it wouldn’t even be noticed in the books.
  • Boyan Slat is a young inventor and this has been his focus for over five years, starting since he was a teenager, founding his company at only 18. He has taken his idea, TheOceanCleanup.com, and begun actual manufacturing on it, to tackle just this problem. If you would like to learn more about his fascinating tale, or to help him accomplish this vital task to all, Click here.

Clean Water and Sanitation Across The World: Estimated at only $10 Billion.

  • There are already some people doing great work on this cause, drilling fresh water wells for villages in remote areas of the African Congo Jungle. Justin Wren is a former UFC mixed martial artist and a current man on a mission to improve the quality of life for those who don’t have access to the most basic necessity for survival; clean, drinkable water.

  • Wren’s (@thebigpigmy) charity, Fight For The Forgotten, has been active for over 6 years in fighting slavery and oppression, growing and harvesting food, buying back land stolen from the pygmy people and protecting their lands from companies trying to exploit the natural resources of the area. That’s on top of the clean water. Wren himself has contracted Malaria multiple times from his excursions to the villages deep in the Congo. He is known and loved among the tribes, his nickname The Big Pygmy (“Mbuti MangBO”) given to him by the tribes, in addition to “Efèosa” meaning “The Man Who Loves Us.”

Justin wren - take a note bezos

How about a realistic thought though. How about setting up a real charity or foundation? Amazon’s only charity, AmazonSmile, is a far call from the best charity. AmazonSmile is a give back per purchase system. On it’s face it’s a good idea; charities and foundations register with Amazon for the program and are placed on a list. Amazon customers click a link provided that directs them to Amazon’s normal site, then shop on Amazon as normal after picking a preferred charity from the registered list. Once the purchase is complete, the charity then gets a small part of the total purchased amount.

If the customer didn’t click the link mentioned though, charities get nothing and Amazon gets the entire amount, it becoming just another regular purchase. This doesn’t seem like an oversight either, but rather a deliberate method to avoid donations. It would be a simple addition if Amazon chose to link whichever charity the customer preferred, to say their Prime Account, so that each purchase would give that small bit to the charity. The effort that would require on their end isn’t even a single employee’s full day in the office to code and implement the change to the site in theory. That small bit that sometimes gets to the charity is only 0.5% of the purchase also, totaling only $12,867,013 USD in 2015. Having made $99 billion that same year, assuming the math is correct here, AmazonSmile only donated 0.00012% of their income for the year. Further, this breaks down to $1.20 donated by Amazon for every $10,000 in sales. Don’t patronize people with fake philanthropic outreaches Mr. Bezos when your own foundation literally won’t even put in a 1% effort.

Jeff Bezos won’t even pay his own employees the wages he promises or even enough to live off without things like government assistance. Maybe this is the best place to start on his journey of redemption should he really want to tread it. Start by providing your own employees a decent quality of life through decent pay, quality of work and work environments, as was stated by a journalist for the Washington Post a few days after the original tweet; but he didn’t submit it to the Washington Post. Some of these stories have been heard through various media channels, but one place had absolutely no bad word about amazon or any of its affiliates. The Washington Post, which just happens to be owned by none other than Jeff Bezos.

The Washington Post has censored, chastised, tormented and even tried firing its reporters and employees for saying something that puts Amazon or Bezos in any kind of negative light. Fredrick Kunkle, a journalist for the Washington Post, wrote an article instead for Huffpost about Bezos’ philanthropic outreach attempt shortly after saying he should start by paying workers a decent wage and stop attacking their pensions and benefits. He gave a few more examples of Amazon firing workers for attempting to organize or join a union, giving an example of closing an entire call center for it.

Kunkle faced repercussions from his bosses within The Washington Post for his article. They didn’t claim it was for saying negative things about Amazon or Bezos though, they said it was for publishing as a freelancer to a competitor without prior consent from his bosses. He was not fired but was issued a formal warning, “But any similar or repeated infractions will result in increased disciplinary action, up to and including the termination of your employment.” This may have been in violation of a labor law according to The Post’s union, filing an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board.

“If you’re a Guild officer, and Freddy is, he has a legal right to publicize a dispute with management. It doesn’t matter what the outlet is.”
– Rick Ehrmann, Guild representative for the Washington Post’s newsroom.

Why is Jeff Bezos owning The Washington Post relevant to the conversation? Beyond continuing his questionable ethics; its a news organization. This allows Bezos to filter what he wants known printed and what he doesn’t silenced. Though Kunkle showed that he can’t keep a lid on absolutely everything. While not a giant secret, perhaps the scariest fact of all is that Jeff Bezos is taking gigantic amounts of Defense Industries money. The fact that he owns a national news outlet while earning over $1 billion dollars in defense contracts is one of the biggest, and clearest, conflicts of interest in history and there are all of three people actually trying to talk about it. Kyle Kulinski of Secular Talk; Jimmy Dore, The Jimmy Dore Show and Lee Camp of Redacted Tonight. All of whom are veterans of the smear campaigns carried out by the mainstream in attempts to discredit them.

The CIA in 2014 gave Amazon a $600 million dollar deal to use AWS (Amazon Web Services) cloud servers to handle all of the cloud computing under its entire agency. The deal took three years to negotiate and complete due to multiple lawsuits from fair practice watch dogs and competing contractors IBM for being done behind closed doors and underhandedly awarding the contract to AWS. After being sent back into the bidding phase by a court order, The CIA and AWS again colluded to ignore the other competitors. This was a done deal already, didn’t they all know that?

As of February, Amazon also acquired a tidy little $950 million dollar deal with the Department of Defense as well. REAN Cloud LLC (a company of AWS) was given the contract for cloud computing services to be a part of the upcoming JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) Cloud for the military. (Something that the Joint Chiefs of Staff may have mentioned as an idea here in January, 5g). The move by the DoD has signaled to Silicon Valley that they are going to use a single platform concept, and by selecting REAN as the early contract the rest of the system will probably be run on AWS systems with no middlemen. Between the CIA and JEDI, Amazon will be in control of the majority of the military’s cloud computing capabilities and be in bed with agencies we know are spying on it’s own citizens.

Among Jeff Bezos’ military ties, he was selected as a member of the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Advisory Board in 2016. The Board happens to be who decides what new technologies will be innovated and brought to the military by Silicon Valley and the best way to accomplish this. Though selected, he never officially joined the board and declined to comment about it when it was revealed in February 2018. That means he owns the largest online company in the world, a major newspaper, and is receiving over a billion dollars from the CIA and the Pentagon which is a dangerous combination of elements to be held by one man. Most people through history with this much power and wealth have been tyrants and dictators, brutally ruling their people through beating and starving them into line. Bezos admittedly is nowhere near that level. Yet. Most of the powerful through history didn’t start off or weren’t inherently evil. After all, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

The workers protesting in Berlin have the right idea and will be shown to be on the right side of history eventually hopefully against such gross practices. The way Amazon continues to grow and Jeff Bezos continues to corner the world financially though, we all might just end up bowing to Emperor Bezos for our daily bread and water by 2025 or 2030.

King Bezos

-Picture Credit: Kyle(@disruptionLP), Twitter
“I do think Bezos has an insatiable desire to be King Bezos. He has a relentless work ethic & wants to kill everything in e-commerce”
– Elon Musk

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