No tax breaks for Amazon while warehouse employees are worked to death!

Amazon is searching for a city to house its second headquarters, and cities and states have laid incentive after incentive in a bid to court Amazon. Only Boston has publicly released its bid, but others states have begun to gift Amazon with tax breaks and tax credits, that range from a whopping $7 billion in tax subsidies for New Jersey if Newark is chosen, a reimbursement of nearly $7,500 per new Amazon worker if the company moves into the DC area, with a max of $30,000 per new job that is filled with military veterans. Illinois has all but gifted Amazon with a tax credit called EDGE, that, “allows qualified companies to keep 100 percent of the state income tax generated by their employees for up to 10 years.”

While states fall over themselves to give as many tax breaks to Amazon, the hope that the company would make good on its promise to provide $5 billion in construction and up to 50,000 permanent jobs seems a bit less meaty than what Amazon would get in return, as both liberal and conservative policy groups criticize the states’ bids. “The liberal New Jersey Policy Perspective and conservative Americans for Prosperity-New Jersey both opposed the incentives as a giveaway to a well-heeled company. ‘By putting at least $5 billion, and potentially several billion dollars more, in taxpayer dollars on the table so early in the game, New Jersey has ensured that its returns will be minimized if Amazon were to ultimately choose the state.’ Jon Whiten, vice president of New Jersey Policy Perspective, said in a statement.”

With a company whose CEO is now the richest man in the world, Amazon does not need more tax breaks and credits so that their shareholders can get wealthier, while warehouse workers are treated abysmally and dangerously. Amazon is facing fines from the death of two warehouse workers, and the state of Indiana has found four potential violations that could cost the company only $28,000, something that sadly seems like the cost of doing business. Around the country, Amazon warehouse workers have described the dangers of their working conditions as well as the near invisibility of those working in e-commerce businesses, where their problems and safety concerns are slipped under the rug by both consumer and company.

New Jersey has one of the largest population of warehouse workers, with Amazon having warehouse locations in Robbinsville, Edison, Logan and Cranbury, and is scheduled to open yet another warehouse in Teterboro in 2018. Employees work at the state’s minimum wage, with no benefits or health insurance, and with mandatory overtime. Employees must stand and work 10 to 12 hour shifts, and receive two unpaid 15 minute breaks and a 30-minute unpaid lunch break. Any slacking can result in immediate termination from the company. Thus far, efforts to unionize workers have been so far unsuccessful, but union workers hope to bring to consumers the people who work hard to bring them their packages in a timely fashion.

While Amazon continues to enjoy the promise of tax breaks and credits to bring their second headquarters to the states’ bids, we need to think about where those tax breaks are going, because it certainly isn’t going into the safety and wages of their employees. The promise of 50,000 jobs is not worth a growing income and wealth inequality between corporations as employees are worked to death!


(Infographic: The Street) (Photo Credit: North Jersey / Mitsu Yasukawa)