Amazon’s destructive business and labor practices


Bernie Sanders has been hammering away at the fact that because companies like Amazon pay such low wages, the taxpayer has to subsidize their workers through things like SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. He has proposed legislation to tax the companies for the cost of the benefits. His group has put out a short video describing the working conditions which Amazon workers experience.

Amazon has responded.

Comments

  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    IANAEconomist, but I was impressed by this article from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities pointing out some of the likely unintended consequences of the Sanders proposal as presently offered, with suggested alternatives.

  2. sonofrojblake says

    In between “hammering away at” Amazon, how much money do we think Sanders is taking from them from the sales of his books there? “Our Revolution: A Future To Believe In” is £9.18, or I can get a Kindle edition for £4.68. His hardcover “Guide to Political Revolution” is £8.78, or £5.83 for the Kindle edition. “Where We Go From Here” is a whopping £20.99, or £10.44 for the Kindle version.

  3. EigenSprocketUK says

    When Amazon pays less than their fair share of tax, it’s not because they altruistically pay the additional profits to the publishers or the writers. Perhaps you also expect Bernie Sanders to write his books and send his tweets only on computers hand made by tax-payers in the USA.

  4. says

    I stopped buying anything from Amazon years ago because of the company’s systematic destruction of local bookstores.

    Last year I had a harder decision to make when Amazon took over Whole Foods. I drastically curtailed my shopping there but continued to buy two bulk items: sliced almonds and steel-cut oats.

    This past week I went into the new Whole Foods store in Cleveland and saw all the blue banners letting Amazon Prime members know that they got special pricing on a wide range of food items.

    I’m done with Whole Foods.

  5. Pablo Campos says

    I try not to buy from Amazon but sometimes it’s inevitable. Since I’m specializing in Asian history at college one day I had to buy a book about Islam in Tibet that costed close to 120 bucks in the campus bookstore and local bookstores. While on Amazon it costed only like 30 dollars. Because of that I was able to buy food for over 2 weeks with the money I saved. Coming from a rather poor Hispanic family and having little money myself I can’t always simply shop for pricey local products nor do I have the luxury to be picky with stores. It sucks but not everyone can always afford to do something even if it goes against your personal beliefs.

  6. sonofrojblake says

    @EigensprocketUK, 3:

    I’m a little baffled. Do you think Sanders isn’t profiting from the sale of his books through Amazon?

    Perhaps you also expect Bernie Sanders to write his books and send his tweets only on computers hand made by tax-payers in the USA

    I’d expect that of him only if he used his considerable international platform and reach to slag off computers made in any and all other countries.

    As it is, he’s using his considerable international platform and reach to slag off a company whose platform HE uses to shill his books to make money. A LOT of money – his income from book royalties comes to more than four times his income as a Senator ($858,750 in 2016 alone). Seems a bit… hypocritical?

  7. sonofrojblake says

    (Just to be clear, I’m not anti-Bernie. If I had been a US voter, I’d have campaigned for him.)

  8. Mano Singham says

    Authors deal only with publishers and get their royalties from them. They can choose which publisher to deal with but not the retailers the publishers sell through. Retailers like Amazon buy books from the publishers, not the authors. So yes, authors do get royalties from Amazon but the relationship is indirect. The only way to avoid it is if the author self-publishes and vets each buyer.

  9. sonofrojblake says

    Someone making close on a million dollars a year from selling their books has a choice of whom to deal with. Granted, that choice might reduce their income. But if they’re already getting over two hundred grand a year from the taxpayer, they can afford to have principles. Or not, which is the choice Sanders has made.

  10. John Morales says

    sonofrojblake, do you think that whether or not Sanders is a hypocrite is relevant to the truth of his claims?

    Me, I don’t see the putative hypocrisy which you insinuate exists. Is he calling for a boycott?

  11. sonofrojblake says

    @John Morales, 10: Of course it’s not relevant to the truth of his claims about Amazon’s practices. “Amazon’s practices are appalling” is uncontroversial.

    What it’s relevant to is Sanders’ integrity in calling it out. He presents himself as appalled at Amazon’s behaviour as a business, but personally causes Amazon to profit to the tune of millions of dollars. He had no need to do that – the US taxpayer remunerates him VERY generously, in excess of two hundred thousand dollars a year. And yet, he finds time to churn out books that earn him personally over four times that, and Amazon likely more. I’m not saying he shouldn’t write – everyone should have a hobby. It’s open to him to flog those books by means that didn’t involve Amazon… but he most likely wouldn’t, then, rake in all that sweet, sweet extra cash, and that’s clearly more important to him than the principle.

    If you’re Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, and ruthless self-interest and a disregard for the common people is part of your brand, there’s no problem with doing that. It’s entirely consistent. But if you’re setting yourself up in opposition to that venal capitalism, profiting personally from it at all looks bad. Profiting hugely from it then loudly and publicly slagging off one of your primary suppliers of income looks even worse. If I was Jeff Bezos, I’d set a team of attack accountants to working out exactly how much they’d paid out to Sanders over the years, then tweet the figure and an invitation for him to donate every last penny of it a charity of his choice.

    I’m not “insinuating” hypocrisy, I’m clearly stating it with figures. If you still can’t see it, I don’t think I can help you.

  12. John Morales says

    sonofrojblake, good to know you endorse his claim, and merely heap opprobrium upon his integrity.

    “Amazon’s practices are appalling” is uncontroversial.

    Um, practice, singular. The one Mano featured in his opening post.

    What it’s relevant to is Sanders’ integrity in calling it out.

    In your opinion.

    But if you’re setting yourself up in opposition to that venal capitalism, profiting personally from it at all looks bad.

    I thought his argument is that, because Amazon does not pay a living wage to many of its employees, it necessitates taxpayer subsidies for those employees. So, the taking advantage of lax labour laws rather than the selling of products for profit.

    If I was Jeff Bezos, I’d set a team of attack accountants to working out exactly how much they’d paid out to Sanders over the years, then tweet the figure and an invitation for him to donate every last penny of it a charity of his choice.

    This is indicative of your political acumen.

  13. says

    Good morning all,

    Several years ago PZ Myers sold a book to a publisher and, being rightly proud of his accomplishment, posted a note on Pharyngula with a link to Amazon to let his readers know that the book was available for purchase.

    I sent an email (maybe it was a comment, I don’t recall which) to PZ and said that it would be better to link to an independent bookseller of his choice—I think I suggested Powell’s City of Books—rather than the destroyer of local bookstores.

    PZ took my suggestion. Did he hurt his sales by not promoting Amazon? Perhaps, but I’d think that finding a reader who did not know that Amazon exists would have been incredibly difficult so I doubt that his sales suffered. Did Powell’s or some other independent bookstore profit from his decision not to promote Amazon? I would say “yes.”

    Did PZ do what was right? I would say “absolutely.”

    Jeff Hess
    Have Coffee Will Write

  14. sonofrojblake says

    @ hyphenman, 13:
    Funny you should mention that. He did eventually take your suggestion… But when he was still linking to where you could buy his book from Amazon, he posted a scathing attack on them called, from memory, something like “Amazon is evil”. In a comment thread mostly predictably composed of sycophantic agreement, I had a go at him then for what was, obviously and unarguably, some pretty deep hypocrisy – “Amazon is evil, here’s a link to where both they and I can take some of your money…”. He and his horde had taken violent issue with comments I’d written before, but this was different. This got me banned from posting at Pharyngula. As Marcus Ranum so recently observed – “nothing stings like precise application of The Truth”.

    Did he do what was right? Absolutely. Like Churchill said, Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing…after they have exhausted all other possibilities.

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