In the May issue we reported on the low wages and tax subsidies tht help Amazon generate a profit of $2.4 billion on North American operations. Well, in June Amazon led a successful strike against the City of Seattle’s decision to collect a $275/employee “tax” from major businesses – the ones making over $20 million in revenue annually.
The tax would have raised $47 million to combat increasing levels of homelessness in the booming city. For perspective, Jeff Bezos of Amazon makes about $5 million a day. (Amazon had already shut down construction on a downtown building to pressure Council members. As intended, this scared a lot of people.)
Once the tax decision was taken, Amazon and others embarked on a welll-funded misinformation campaign (“this will cost you,” “small businesses will go under,” “the City Council misspent homeless funds”) with paid gatherers collecting 40,000 signatures to force a referendum.
Seven of nine Council members voted to repeal the measure—predictably angering many people. The 4-week blitz succeeded in turning the concern of city residents over homelessness into anger against City Hall.
According to the Seattle Chamber head Heather Redman, this was the point. Business was fed up with a Council that had the temerity to impose some public purposes on their behavior: secure scheduling rules gave workers more ability to predict their hours, a $15 minimum wage, and now this tax.
It turned out that the campaign agains the tax wasn’t simple opposition but opportunity: leaked minutes from a meeting of the Downtown Seattle Assn. indicated that the goal wasw a new City Council in fall elections. As reported in Slate, one association member told the meeting that the tax was “an opportunity to take back our city” that members might not see again in their lifetimes.
On another note, Jeff Bezos said in an interview that he thinks the most practical way to spend his money is to pump $1 billion a year into space travel.
Figures and quotes here are from Slate (May 22), the Stranger (Slog), Business Insider, Atlantic Magazine (June 13, 2018), Politico (Oct 19, 2017).