Amazon.com announced in September that it is planning on establishing a second headquarters—Amazon HQ2—and that it is accepting bids from cities in North America. The city chosen by Amazon would receive an investment of over $5 billion, which would lead to the estimated creation of 50,000 jobs. Hundreds of cities are jockeying to bring Amazon to their city promising whatever it takes to coax Amazon’s attention, including large tax breaks. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2017/09/07/amazon-is-looking-for-a-city-to-site-a-second-5-billion-headquarters/?utm_term=.f519c9d65449. To even be considered, Amazon is requiring a metropolitan population of a million or more people, an international airport, mass transit, and close proximity to a major university.
Make no mistake about it, job growth should be encouraged and $5 billion in investment with 50,000 new jobs would no doubt be transformative for any city. However, all too often, major corporations like Amazon are given enormous tax breaks and enjoy millions in corporate welfare without any promise that the community will be benefited in return. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-perspec-amazon-chicago-deal-1005-story.html. Instead, economic redevelopment is now measured by whether we have sufficiently appeased corporate America as opposed to being measured on whether the average American is actually left better off. This must change.
While 50,000 jobs is impressive, Americans do not simply need a job—we need good paying jobs—jobs that pay a living wage, provide access to affordable health insurance, and a road to a retirement that is not spent figuring out how to pay for prescription medication. New jobs that pay pennies above the minimum wage and offer no benefits are very little help to anyone. Many Americans are forced to face a reality where it actually costs them more to go to work than they bring home in their paycheck. Given such conditions, Americans no longer need just one job, but must take at least two just to make ends meet.
While unemployment has hit a record low, for more than three decades, American workers have watched their wages either dwindle or remain stagnant while costs have grown out of control for necessities like energy, healthcare, or education. Many of us have watched as our health insurance premiums, deductibles, and co-pays have ballooned while our retirement benefits have shrunk.
There is a reason for this. During that same period of time, there has been a war on working people in this country carried out by the Republican Party and bankrolled by the wealthy and corporate interests. The chief target of that war has been the right of Americans to form, join, and participate in labor unions to bargain collectively with their employers. Unions help to even the odds at the bargaining table and provide American workers with voice in the workplace.
For example, Amazon has historically fought its employees’ attempts to unionize either by having its managers hand out anti-union literature, by hiring a law firm to fight off organized labor, or by closing a facility that was in the process of being organized. http://time.com/956/how-amazon-crushed-the-union-movement/. Now, Amazon is attempting to bring package distribution in-house, which could substantially impact the amount of work performed by unionized postal workers. These postal workers have union representation and have negotiated good wages and benefits. Amazon’s attempt at bringing this work in-house would replace these unionized jobs with non-union employees making significantly less.
Companies that receive taxpayer dollars or public resources should, at minimum, follow our laws. More so, they should do the right thing by the community that has helped them so much by paying a living wage and promoting worker rights. Yet, Amazon has developed a reputation for paying its employees less than others; for instance, Amazon warehouse employees typically receive 15% less than the prevailing wage in the communities where they operate. https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/2017/01/13/amazons-jobs-creation-plan-comes-amid-labor-pains/96488166/. Amazon has been sued by its employees on several occasions, including a class action lawsuit over its attempt to misclassify its truck drivers as contractors in order to skirt the protections of federal labor laws and avoid paying them the minimum wage and overtime. Amazon has also made the news for its grueling, intimidating, and threatening managerial tactics designed to pressure its employees. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-in-a-bruising-workplace.html?_r=0.
Instead of dealing with these issues and requiring that companies like Amazon treat their employees better, President Trump has complained that the postal service should be charging Amazon “much more.” https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-amazon-com/trump-wants-postal-service-to-charge-much-more-for-amazon-shipments-idUKKBN1EN15O. This ignores workers entirely and threatens to cost the postal service 62% of Amazon’s business to private companies like FedEx that is only roughly 2% unionized. https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2009/12/08/fedex-and-ups-feud-over-union-rules. Our workers deserve the President’s advocacy, not private companies looking to skirt the right to bargain.
This sort of economic development is not the solution, it is part of the problem. It is for these reasons that the Genesee County Democratic Party and the Flint Michigan Area Local of the American Postal Workers Union have come together to reaffirm our dedication to the rights of American workers. We demand that our lawmakers redouble their efforts to bring not just any jobs, but good jobs to the State of Michigan that pay a living wage and provide Michigan workers with benefits and a path to retirement.