Amazon, on its road to upending retail and ruffling the country’s social fabric, has stepped on its share of toes. From fights with the U.S. president to protests over pay and working conditions, Amazon has courted controversy as its value pushes $1 trillion.
More is coming. Earlier this week, three dozen grassroots activist groups announced that they were forming a coalition called Athena, with the goal of uniting those opposing a variety of Amazon’s practices and initiatives. Athena’s introductory tweet described it as “a diverse, powerful force of people + organizations working together to stop Amazon’s increasing stranglehold on our economy, democracy, people & planet.”
The group aims to resist what it sees as Amazon’s malign influence on governmental decisions, local economies, environmental health and personal privacy. Lauren Jacobs of the Partnership for Working Families, an Athena member organization based in Oakland, told the New York Times that the faceoff was a “David and Goliath story.” Athena has a $15 million budget for its first three years, almost a rounding error on Amazon’s annual balance sheet.
Athena is not the only David staring down the ecommerce Goliath. On Tuesday a nonprofit research group calling itself the Economic Roundtable released a report titled “Too Big to Govern: Public Balance Sheet for the World’s Largest Store.” Among the key data points, the document reports that more than half of Amazon’s Southern California warehouse workers live in substandard housing.
The problem, the group says, is not just private; the report states that for every dollar Amazon pays its employees, the workers also receive 24 cents in public assistance. It also estimates that Amazon trucks created $642 million in “uncompensated public costs” for noise, road wear, accidents and harmful emissions, just in the past year.
- Athena is funded in part by George Soros’s Open Society Foundation.
- Amazon hired nearly 100,000 new employees in the summer of 2019.
- Over 60% of American households have an Amazon Prime account.
- Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s net worth is estimated at over $110 billion.
- Amazon operates more than 75 fulfillment centers in the U.S.
The company is sacrificing safety for speed in its warehouses, according to a story NBC News published today.