Amazon: Can Money Buy Smooth Sailing?

June 15, 2020

What is the obvious solution when you must not leave home but there are things to purchase?, of course. And where do businesses turn when they must suddenly facilitate remote workers? For many, the solution is Amazon’s AWS. During this pandemic the tech giant has grown even larger, but with this success comes a lot of criticism. Yahoo News tells us, “Amazon Hit from All Sides as Crisis Highlights Growing Power.” One prominent example—New York state Attorney General Letitia James and others were disgusted Amazon fired a worker who had led a protest over covid-19-related safety concerns. The company says the employee was actually fired for refusing to quarantine after testing positive for the disease. Hmm.

AFP reporter Julie Jammot writes:

“As Amazon becomes an increasingly important lifeline in the pandemic crisis, it is being hit with a wave of criticism from activists, politicians and others who question the tech giant’s growing influence. Amazon has become the most scrutinized company during the health emergency. It has boosted its global workforce to nearly one million and dealt with protests over warehouse safety and reported deaths of several employees. But Amazon has also pledged to spend at least $4 billion in the current quarter — its entire expected operating profit — on coronavirus mitigation efforts, including relief contributions and funding research. Amazon’s AWS cloud computing unit, which powers big portions of the internet, is also a key element during the crisis with more people and companies working online. Amazon’s market value has hovered near record levels around $1.2 trillion dollars as it reported rising revenues and lower profits in the past quarter.”

The company’s size alone, say activists, is reason enough for scrutiny. Some are concerned about the way Amazon treats workers, others balk at the financial gain CEO Jeff Bezos has personally enjoyed during this time. Though the company has increased pay above minimum wage during the crisis, to $15 an hour, critics say it could afford to pay much more. There is also concern that, with its popular streaming service on top of everything else, the company just wields too much influence in people’s daily lives.

Amazon seems to have sailed through the biological disturbance. Now comes the legal thunderstorms. Smooth cruising ahead? Unlikely.

Cynthia Murrell, June 15, 2020


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