Online retail giant Amazon is expanding its already sizable operations in Oregon. According to recent news coverage, the Seattle-based corporation is planning to add 370,000 square feet of new space at two new facilities in Portland and Tualatin. While the business community is celebrating, the planned expansion begs an important question: Are we attracting the right kinds of employers to Oregon?
To answer that, let’s take a look at Amazon’s record.
Amazon grabbed national headlines last year when an investigation revealed an abysmal workplace safety record. The injuries at Amazon fulfillment centers are more than double the national average for warehouse workers:
“…internal injury records from 23 of the company’s 110 fulfillment centers nationwide. Taken together, the rate of serious injuries for those facilities was more than double the national average for the warehousing industry: 9.6 serious injuries per 100 full-time workers in 2018, compared with an industry average that year of 4.”
In a story in The Atlantic, former OSHA head David Michaels called into question Amazon’s entire work process structure:
“According to Amazon’s own records, the risk of work injuries at fulfillment centers is alarmingly, unacceptably high. Amazon needs to take a hard look at the facilities where so many workers are being hurt and either redesign the work processes, replace the top managers, or both, because serious-injury rates this high should not be acceptable to any employer.”
The Right to Unionize
In 2019 CNBC ran a story about the aggressive tactics Amazon uses to prevent employees from forming unions. The tactics are expected and follow a playbook common in Corporate America, but it’s worthwhile to read about the different ways Amazon appears puts union organizing efforts in a chokehold: They use flashy videos, manipulate employees, and have raised wages while removing other benefits to attempt to win over workers. You can learn more about the corporation’s use of videos in an article from Gizmodo.
The point both articles make clear is that Amazon is funneling massive resources and considerable effort into keeping workers from standing together in unions. It’s about putting profits first.
Paying Fair Taxes
Amazon has long drawn scorn from economists and advocates over their taxes, or lack thereof: The company didn’t pay a cent in Federal income taxes from 2016 until last year, when they owed $162 million. That sounds like a lot, but as CNBC reported earlier this year, it’s barely a drop in the bucket of what the corporation should actually be paying:
“$162 million is still just a fraction of the $13.9 billion in pre-tax income Amazon reported for 2019 — roughly 1.2%, in fact. The federal corporate tax rate is 21%, but as in the past, Amazon likely employed various tax credits and deductions to reduce its federal tax bill. Amazon also reported $280.5 billion in total revenue in 2019.”
The expansion of Amazon into Oregon will provide jobs, but based on the company’s record it’s clear what kind of jobs we’re talking about:
Dangerous work is made even more dangerous by treacherous demands to work faster while unionization efforts are crushed with corporate efficiency, all so that a massively profitable corporation can continue to pay significantly less than its fair share in taxes.
That’s not the kind of work we think Oregon should strive for.