By Theodore Mattheiss
Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, recently became the world’s wealthiest person, with an estimated net worth of $166 billion according to Forbes. His company recently surpassed a $1 trillion market value.
So why are Amazon’s employees finding it so hard to make a living on their wages, and struggling so much while they’re on the clock — and why does the company insist that they aren’t?
Bezos gets millions of dollars added to his bank account every single day, but the wages paid to employees in his warehouses are so low that they are forced to rely on government welfare programs just to survive, and their working conditions are frankly inhumane. Employees have been seen choosing to urinate in soda bottles they keep with them, rather than go to the bathroom, out of fear of missing their productivity quotas.
Some of Amazon’s warehouses are four stories tall, measuring in at 700,000 square feet. Yet there are only two bathrooms, and they’re located on the ground floor. Employees can sometimes face as much as a quarter mile walk just to pee.
Call me crazy, but I think Bezos could skim a few million off the top of his own salary to at least put a bathroom on each floor of the warehouses owned by his record-breakingly profitable company.
Amazon has frequently come under fire from politicians and citizens on the left, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, who feel that the dramatic income inequality within the company is a prime example of what’s wrong with capitalism these days.
“While Jeff Bezos’ wealth has increased $260 million every single day this year, he continues to pay many Amazon employees wages so low that they’re forced to depend on taxpayer-funded programs such as food stamps, Medicaid and public housing to survive,” Sanders said on Twitter.
The senator has declared that witnessing the immense profits of Bezos makes him “uncomfortable,” and I share that feeling. There is no reason for the CEO to be raking in this kind of cash while his workers feel that their basic needs aren’t being met.
Rather than direct money toward fixing the problem, Amazon has instead been funding propaganda initiatives that have the purpose of improving the company’s reputation, without actually doing anything to earn such improvement in the public eye. The company has hired a team of Twitter users to say positive things about it, in response to these legitimate criticisms.
The Twitter users, according to the company, are all people who have spent a significant amount of time working in Amazon’s warehouses.
“The most important thing is that they’ve been here long enough to honestly share the facts based on personal experience,” said an Amazon spokesperson to Business Insider, as if they could possibly be speaking in an unbiased and honest fashion while continuing to work for the company.
According to Business Insider, “a quick search on Twitter reveals about 13 such employee accounts, and they seem to be uniform in both their online presence and talking points.”
If I had to guess, these “ambassadors,” as they’re called, are 13 lucky warehouse employees who were given the opportunity to enter a job with less depraved conditions and better pay, with the condition that they shamelessly misrepresent their own experiences. I couldn’t blame them for making that decision though, not really. I could only blame the company for that kind of exploitation, on top of how they already exploit their warehouse workers.
In Bezos’ own words, “you have to always be leaning into the future. If you’re leaning away from the future, the future is gonna win, every time.” I would suggest that Bezos take his own advice and lean into the future by providing a living wage and decent working conditions for his employees.
People are making it clear that they are not going to put up with this kind of inequality, and if Bezos doesn’t take the proper steps to make some change, they will work to make the change themselves.