Bezos comments on workers after space flight draws scolding

NEW YORK (AP) – The richest man in the world wanted to thank the people who made his brief trip to space possible on Tuesday.

But for some, the expression of gratitude from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has gone like a rocket of lead.

“I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you paid for it all,” Bezos, 57, said at a press conference on Tuesday after becoming the second billionaire in just a bit. more than a week of driving alone. spatialship.

Bezos made Amazon a shopping and entertainment giant, but faced growing activism within his own workforce and stepped up pressure from critics to improve working conditions.

Worker groups and Amazon workers claimed the company did not provide enough break time for its hourly workers, relied too much on rigid productivity metrics and had unsafe working conditions. An effort to organize workers at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama failed earlier this year.

Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary to President Bill Clinton and professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, wrote on Twitter that Bezos had crushed union organizing attempts for decades.

“Amazon employees don’t need Bezos to thank them. They need him to stop breaking the unions – and paying them what they deserve, ”Reich wrote.

Bezos stepped down as CEO of Amazon in July, giving him more time for side projects, including his space exploration company Blue Origin. He said he funds the rocket company by selling $ 1 billion in Amazon stock each year.

After the space flight, Bezos gave $ 100 million in donations as part of a new philanthropic initiative to DC chief Jose Andres and CNN contributor Van Jones to be donated to any charity or non-profit of their choice. Jones has founded a number of nonprofits and Andres’ nonprofit World Central Kitchen provides meals to people in the aftermath of natural disasters.

Nonetheless, Representative Earl Blumenauer, who is on the fiscal drafting ways and means committee, on Tuesday proposed legislation that would tax space travel for unscientific research purposes.

“Space exploration is not a tax-free holiday for the rich,” said Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat. “Just as normal Americans pay taxes when they buy plane tickets, billionaires who fly in space to produce nothing of scientific value should do the same, and so do some.”

Others have linked his space flight to reports that Bezos has not paid his fair share of taxes. According to the nonprofit investigative journalism organization ProPublica, Bezos paid no income tax in 2007 and 2011.

“Jeff Bezos forgot to thank all the hard-working Americans who paid taxes to make this country work when he and Amazon paid nothing,” tweeted Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

Allen Adamson, co-founder of marketing consultancy Metaforce, says it’s hard for Bezos to say where the space travel money is coming from without being offensive. He says he should have left those comments aside and focused on thanking the Blue Origin team.

“For people who have a problem with inequality and its pay compared to average employee pay, this was rocket fuel,” Adamson said.

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Follow Anne D’Innocenzio: http://twitter.com/ADInnocenzio

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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