By Alaina Perdon
Elm Staff Writer
This year’s Amazon Prime Day sale, held on Oct. 13 and 14, set records as the most lucrative online sales event in company history.
In an Oct. 15 press release, CEO Jeff Bezos touted sales surpassing $3.5 billion, a 60% increase from last year’s Prime Day sales event. In the midst of the excitement, however, came an ever-growing plea from human rights organizations, former Amazon workers, and concerned citizens alike to boycott the retail giant.
Though a seemingly staple service in so many lives, Amazon is an unethical business quickly monopolizing the worldwide retail market.
When Amazon was founded in 1994, only businesses with physical storefronts had to pay sales tax, allowing the exclusively online retailer to profit without taxation until 2015. Although they are now taxed, calculations by the Center for Economic and Policy Research estimate Amazon would have paid $20.4 billion from 1994 to 2015.
Since 2015, a careful combination of tax credits and tax breaks for executive stock options have allowed Bezos and other Amazon higher-ups to retain billions of dollars rather than turning them over for the welfare of American citizens, according to Matthew Gardner at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
Gardner also uncovered that Amazon has paid only one third of the federal income taxes it should pay on its United States profits since 2015. The intention of such taxes is to redistribute money to fund vital services for all citizens, such as education and health care. Rather than contribute to the country’s wellbeing, Bezos hoards his wealth, bringing his net worth to roughly $200 billion according to CNN Business reports.
Despite the CEO being the richest man in world history, Amazon workers are vastly underpaid. A November 2016 study by the Institute for Local Self Reliance analyzed more than 1,300 wage postings on Glassdoor and found that positions at Amazon’s fulfillment centers paid about 9% less than the industry average at the time.
In the U.S., Amazon is ranked among the highest on the list of employers with the most workers registered for anti-poverty programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly referred to as the food stamp program.
For a company that goes to such great lengths to make money, Amazon workers receive none of the benefits of these profits. In addition to being underpaid, Amazon workers internationally report “terrifying” working conditions in fulfillment centers, according to workers surveyed by United Kingdom-based social welfare organization Organise.
Organise surveyed over 200 warehouse workers in 2018 and received reports about unrealistically high fulfillment standards, lack of adequate breaks, and excessive discipline. Nearly 75% of workers surveyed stated they avoided using the restroom during their shift because doing so would cause them to receive a strike on their record for “wasting company time.”
Each purchase we make on Amazon.com supports this system of exploitation and detracts from the smaller businesses struggling to stay afloat in the age of online retailers. The advertised “unbeatable deals” and quality customer service cover up the corruption afoot, and consumerist culture excuses these injustices.
It is perhaps unrealistic to assume that Amazon will ever go out of style. The web service capitalizes on our need for convenience and has become so ingrained in modern culture that to function without it seems impossible. But, as individual consumers, we can combat its rise by sending our money elsewhere, patronizing local shops and buying in person when possible.
Featured Photo caption: Amazon.com has faced harsh criticism from employees and consumers alike, who accuse the company of being unethical. Photo by Mark Cooley.