US Democrats have hit out at Jeff Bezos for not paying better wages after he thanked Amazon staff for financing his trip to space.
Mr Bezos, the world’s richest man with a wealth of $200billion (£150bn), blasted into space on Tuesday on his rocket company Blue Origin’s first flight with passengers on board. Upon landing, he thanked customers of Amazon for helping fund the $5.5billion trip.
Amazon and its founder, who has for years not paid federal income tax, faces heavy criticism as the company has been accused of unfair labour practices over the years, claims they have denied.
“Am I supposed to be impressed that a billionaire went to space while he’s paid zero in federal income taxes some years and the workers at his company struggle to afford their medical bills, rent, and food for their kids?” tweeted Bernie Sanders, Representative for Vermont who has campaigned on raising the corporate tax rate. “Nope. It’s time to invest in working people here on Earth.”
Billionaire businessman Jeff Bezos hugs girlfriend Lauren Sanchez after returning from a brief flight to Space
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, meanwhile, alleged the online giant abused its “market power” to decimate small businesses.
“Yes, Amazon workers did pay for this – with lower wages, union busting, a frenzied and inhumane workplace, and delivery drivers not having health insurance during a pandemic,” the New York lawmaker tweeted.
Randy Korgan, National Director for Teamsters Union, which tried to unionise Amazon workers but failed earlier this year, criticised Mr Bezos.
“One part of Bezos’s statement is surprisingly accurate – it is Amazon workers who have built his fortune – but if Jeff Bezos really wants to thank Amazon workers, he should listen to their demands for safer working conditions, a voice in the workplace, and good, family sustaining middle class jobs rather than perpetuating a highly exploitative business model of high pace of work, high rates of injury, high rates of turnover and low pay,” he told the MailOnline.
According to a recent report in ProPublica, Mr Bezos, who stepped down from Amazon in July, paid no income tax in 2007 and 2011. He finances his rocket company by selling $1billion in Amazon stock annually.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, center, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington
Meanwhile, the average Amazon worker made $29,007 in 2020, with a CEO-to-worker pay ratio of 58:1. Amazon delivery drivers have complained of gruelling conditions that led them to ignore stop signs and skip meals to get packages delivered.
Employees also staged walkouts over concerns that they were not being offered enough protection from the Covid-19 virus.
On Tuesday, Mr Bezos announced a $100million award for “civility and courage” that was to be used to better things back on Earth by being donated to charity.