Jeff Bezos, founder and owner of Amazon, has become the richest man in the world. As of 2018, he is ranked number one on Forbes’ list of World Billionaires as the first person to exceed $100 billion dollars.
In comparison to the lives and earnings of his Amazon employees, he appears as a profit-hungry capitalist who would rather increase his personal fortune than ensure his employees having livable wages or proper working conditions.
A single person should not have the ability to exploit the labor of thousands of workers for profit. Many Amazon employees are forced to endure adverse working conditions while earning low wages.
For example, an undercover correspondent from the Daily Mirror, Alan Selby, spent five weeks as an Amazon employee in Essex, England in 2017. Selby reported that drivers were made to deliver 200 parcels a day without food or bathroom breaks. Many resorted to urinating in empty bottles while trying to meet targets.
Selby also reported that warehouse workers became so exhausted while working long hours that they often fell asleep standing up.
According to Business Insider, ambulances were stationed outside a Pennsylvania warehouse for employees who fainted while working in extreme heat in 2010. Amazon employees deserve to be safe while they are at work. They should not have to experience such extreme conditions to earn a living.
Meanwhile, Bezos continues to profit.
MSN Money reports that Bezos makes roughly $231,000 per minute. In one minute, Bezos makes about four times what an average American household earns in one year.
The median household income was estimated at around $59,000 in 2017. The amount of labor provided by Amazon workers should be met with matching wages, or, at the very least, a reasonable enough wage for these workers to live, even at the expense of Bezos’ personal fortune.
A study conducted by Policy Matters Ohio found that 10 percent of all Amazon employees in Ohio are currently enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, making Amazon a leading employer with workers on food stamps. A company whose owner exceeds four times of average American household earnings should not have to rely on taxpayer subsidies to ensure their workers are able to afford food.
Amazon continues to expand, meaning Bezos’ fortune will follow suit while his employees’ earnings remain stagnant. Wealth needs to be reasonably redistributed to ensure these workers have adequate working and living conditions.
Bezos not only profits from exploiting his employees’ labor, but also from taxpayer dollars. Amazon’s annual financial report even showed that the company did not pay any federal income tax in 2017 after earning 5.6 billion dollars.
With 10 percent of Ohio’s Amazon employees enrolled in government assistance, Bezos relies on taxpayers to supplement his employees’ income.
Wages need to be raised and working conditions need to be improved for Amazon employees. A person who earns $231,000 per minute can handle redistributing his wealth to ensure that the very people who make his prosperity possible are safe, comfortable and able to eat and live.
Paige Wisniewski is a junior majoring in interdisciplinary social sciences.