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Bezos’ space flight reignites long-standing grievances over Amazon’s business practices and the wealth gap


The richest man in the world wanted to thank the people who made his brief trip to space on Tuesday possible.

But for some, the expression of gratitude from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has gone like a rocket of lead.

“I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you paid for it all,” Bezos, 57, said at a press conference on Tuesday after becoming the second billionaire in just over a week to board his own spaceship.

Bezos made Amazon a shopping and entertainment giant, but faced a rise activism within its own workforce and stepped up pressure from critics to improve working conditions.

Amazon workgroups and workers claimed the company did not provide enough break time for its hourly workers, relied too much on rigid productivity metrics and had unsafe working conditions. A efforts to organize workers at Amazon warehouse in Alabama failed earlier this year.

Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary to President Bill Clinton and professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, wrote on Twitter that Bezos had crushed union organizing attempts for decades.

“Amazon workers don’t need Bezos to thank them. They need him to stop breaking unions – and pay them what they deserve,” Reich wrote.

Teamsters National Director for Amazon Randy Korgan expressed similar sentiments in a statement to CBS News, saying, “Part of Bezos’ statement is surprisingly specific – it was the Amazon workers who made 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 jobs for the middle class family, rather than perpetuating a business model. highly exploitative of high work rates, high injury rates, high turnover rates and low wages. “


Bezos shares a moving moment aboard a spaceship …

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Bezos stepped down as CEO of Amazon in July, giving him more time for side projects, including his space exploration company Blue Origin. He said he funds the rocket company by selling $ 1 billion in Amazon stock each year.

After the space flight, Bezos gave $ 100 million in donations as part of a new philanthropic initiative to DC chief Jose Andres and CNN contributor Van Jones to be donated to any charity or non-profit of their choice. Jones has founded a number of nonprofits and Andres’ nonprofit World Central Kitchen provides meals to people in the aftermath of natural disasters.

Nonetheless, Representative Earl Blumenauer, who is on the fiscal drafting ways and means committee, on Tuesday proposed legislation that would tax space travel for unscientific research purposes.

“Space exploration is not a tax-free holiday for the rich,” said Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat. “Just as normal Americans pay taxes when they buy plane tickets, billionaires who fly in space to produce nothing of scientific value should do the same, and so do some.”

Others have reported that Bezos has not paid his fair share of taxes. According to the nonprofit investigative journalism organization ProPublica, Bezos paid no income tax in 2007 and 2011.

“Jeff Bezos forgot to thank all the hard working Americans who paid taxes to make this country work when he and Amazon paid nothing,” tweeted Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

Allen Adamson, co-founder of marketing consultancy Metaforce, says it’s hard for Bezos to say where the space travel money is coming from without being offensive. He says he should have left those comments aside and focused on the thanks to the Blue Origin team.

“For people who have a problem with inequality and its pay compared to average employee pay, this was rocket fuel,” Adamson said.

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