Amazon puts 7,000 jobs on hold because of a tax that would help Seattle’s homeless population

Rebekah Entralgo

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has more money than he knows what do deal with.

While visiting Germany in late April to pick up the Axel Springer Award for innovation, Bezos gave an exclusive interview to Business Insider about how it feels to be the richest man in the world.

Bezos, who has a net worth of $130.8 billion, told the outlet that the only logical way to spend his money is by funding space tourism through his spaceflight company, Blue Origin.

“The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel. That is basically it,” Bezos said.

What Bezos does not want to spend money on at all is helping the homeless population in the city where his company is located.

On Wednesday, Amazon announced the company would halt the construction of a new building in downtown Seattle it was planning to build, jeopardizing some 7,000 jobs.

Why? Because the company opposes a tax being considered by the City Council.

The tax targets 500-600 businesses in the city that gross at least $20 million a year. The companies would be charged a “head tax” at $500 per employee. In 2021, the head tax would be replaced by a 0.7 percent payroll tax. The payroll tax would windup costing Amazon more than the initial head tax, considering Seattle Amazon employees are paid about an average of $110,000 per year, according to data from job-reviews site Glassdoor.

“I can confirm that pending the outcome of the head-tax vote by City Council, Amazon has paused all construction planning on our Block 18 project in downtown Seattle and is evaluating options to sub-lease all space in our recently leased Rainer Square building,” a spokesperson for Amazon told The Seattle Times.

The city council is expected to vote on the tax on May 14.

The city estimates the tax would raise an estimated $75 million annually, with Amazon paying roughly $20 million in 2019 and 2020. One might think for a company that pulled in $1.6 billion last quarter, they could afford to help out the city of Seattle and its most vulnerable residents, especially considering the extent to which Amazon’s presence in the city has exacerbated the housing crisis there. 

Since 2010, when Amazon opened its first headquarters in the South Lake Union area of Seattle, housing costs have skyrocketed.

The median cost of a single-family home has more than doubled to $820,000, and rents have increased 64 percent, according to the Seattle Times. The average two-bedroom home in Seattle costs more than $2,000 per month. Only a third of condominiums in Seattle are priced below $500,000.

The city reached an official state of emergency two years ago as a result of the homelessness crisis. 169 deaths related to homelessness were recorded in King County last year, where Seattle is located.

Amazon has come under fire in recent weeks after it was revealed the mega-corporation paid no taxes on its 2017 profits, which totaled roughly $3 billion dollars. The company is able to do this by utilizing a number of tax credits and exemptions built into the U.S. federal tax code — credits and exemptions that were not fully addressed by the tax overhaul that passed in December of 2017.

The company has also been criticized for how it treats its employees. Amazon workers have reported sub-par working conditions, including below zero temperatures in the winter and sweltering heat in the summer inside the warehouses, sustaining on-site injuries, and long hours with below minimum wage pay.

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Reposted from Think Progress

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work