Tuesday, August 1, 2017

AMAZON'S BEZO LABOR CAMPS.... The grim picture of the making of a billionaire parasite

"The top 10 percent of Americans now own roughly three-quarters of all household wealth."

"While telling workers there is “not enough money” for wage increases, or to fund social programs, both parties hailed the recent construction of the U.S.S. Gerald Ford, a massive aircraft carrier that cost $13 billion to build, stuffing the pockets of numerous contractors and war profiteers."

Ten facts Amazon workers must know about the corporation:

  1. Slave wages for Indian Amazon workers: Indian Amazon workers are paid as little as $233 a month. No wonder Bezos said he was “energized by optimism and invention in India” when he met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June. A 28-year-old Indian Amazon worker told the IAWV: “Multinational companies are exploiting workers as cheap labour in this country.” Amazon has 41 fulfillment centers in India. Read more: Amazon pays warehouse workers $233 per month in India

  2. Workers stuck in a freezer: AmazonFresh workers report that the company illegally keeps them in freezers for nearly three hours, with temperatures between 30 to -22 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 to -30 Celsius). “There are no clocks in the freezer,” one worker said. “Stopping to check for the time [on your cell phone] also slows you down—they never stop monitoring your pick rate.” Read more: AmazonFresh worker reveals: Amazon illegally keeps workers in a freezer for over two hours at a time

  3. Bezos’ wealth grows: Jeff Bezos is about to become the richest man in the world. With a total net wealth of nearly $90 billion, he needs just a few billion more to top Bill Gates. Bezos has made $22.4 billion so far in 2017, more than anyone else on earth. Read more: Amazon CEO Bezos makes $1.4 billion Thursday morning, briefly becoming world’s richest person

  4. Amazon’s empire expands: Amazon’s monopoly and domination of the world market is growing. Former Amazon executive Brittain Ladd told The Street that other corporations “will have a challenging future if they don’t embrace Amazon…That’s what will determine the winners and losers—who decides to work with Amazon.” This means conditions will worsen for workers across all industries, who will be subject to the same exploitation as Amazon workers.

  5. Amazon robs the elderly of their land: A Virginia power company is seeking to seize land from elderly black residents to build transmission lines for an Amazon data center. Amazon will not contribute a dollar to the construction—the proposed $62 million project would be paid entirely by residents. A spokesperson for the residents said, “No community should be made to sacrifice so much for one multibillion-dollar corporation.” Read more: Amazon to seize the land of freed slaves’ descendants to lay power lines

  6. Worker run over by truck: Workers reported to the IAWV that an Amazon worker in Tennessee died when he was run over by a semi-truck. “The Amazon Associates and the truckers share a parking lot at my plant,” a worker told the IAWV. “I think an accident is going to happen eventually.”

  7. Sweatshops and Warehouses: Nike has made an agreement to sell their apparel company’s goods on Amazon. The deal links Nike sweatshops, where workers in South East Asia make shoes and clothing for near-slave wages, with Amazon’s network of exploited workers at fulfillment centers worldwide.

  8. Speculating on Whole Foods-Amazon deal: Financial speculators are cashing in on the Whole Foods-Amazon deal. Jana Partners, an investment firm that owned a large chunk of Whole Foods, sold off its ownership share and made $320 million on the Amazon deal. The Street reported: “A Jana Partners official declined to comment.”

  9. Selling short on Wall Street:  According to a June article in Business Insider, “The ever-expanding juggernaut Amazon’s $13.7 billion deal to acquire Whole Foods spurred share losses in the likes of Kroger, Target, and Walmart, amounting to about $500 million of gains for short speculators last week alone.”

  10. Truckers fight back: In June, truck drivers and warehouse workers transporting Amazon packages went on strike against trucking companies that skirt minimum wage and insurance and benefits regulations by classifying them as “independent contractors.” The Teamsters union shut the strike down with no benefits won to placate Los Angeles’ Democratic Party mayor. Read more: The way forward for West Coast port truck drivers

Amazon Jobs Day: A Tale of Two Americas

By Eric London
2 August 2017
All across the US today, tens or hundreds of thousands of people will line up looking for work as part of the largest job fair in US history.
“Amazon Jobs Day” tells a tale of two Americas.
On the one hand there is Amazon, a corporation awash in cash, always expanding its monopoly, producing ever greater dividends for shareholders. Its stock value has tripled in the last two years, and CEO Jeff Bezos (net worth=$90 billion) is making $23,000 per minute, about the same as the average Amazon warehouse worker in the US earns each year. The financial oligarchy agrees with what Barack Obama said in 2016: “Now is the greatest time to be alive.”
On the other hand, living conditions are deteriorating for the working class. The net worth of the average working class family has nearly fallen in half since the 2007-2008 financial crash, and most workers don’t have enough savings to cover a moderate expense like new tires or new medication.
The job fairs are being held in some of the most economically distressed regions of the country.
Urban centers like Baltimore, Maryland and Buffalo, New York have been hollowed out by decades of job losses and population decline. Suburban areas like Etna, Ohio; Whitestown, Indiana; Romeoville, Illinois; and Hebron, Kentucky are among the most heavily impacted by an opioid crisis that killed roughly 60,000 people last year. Former industrial hubs like Fall River, Massachusetts; Robbinsville, New Jersey; and Kenosha Wisconsin were once home to better-paid manufacturing jobs, but are now being transformed into industrial parks for low-pay, low-benefit warehouse work.
The fact that many workers view Amazon warehouse jobs that net $15,000 to $25,000 per year as a step up from the minimum wage service industry is itself a sign that corporations exercise an unprecedented degree of domination over the lives of hundreds of millions of workers. Today, workers no longer have the eight-hour day, pensions, employer-provided health care, or cost of living adjustments in contracts.
The growth in poverty and economic hardship in the working class means the accumulation of wealth and privilege by the ruling class. The top 10 percent of Americans now own roughly three-quarters of all household wealth. The poorest half of the population—roughly 160 million people, own nothing—just 0.1 percent of US wealth.
The growth of inequality is the product of deliberate policies enacted by both capitalist parties, the Democrats and Republicans, which have carried out the same policies of bank bailouts, cuts to social programs, tax cuts for the rich, mass surveillance, the deportation of immigrant workers, and never-ending war abroad.
Trump and his cabal of fascist advisers, generals, and family members did not emerge from nowhere—his administration is the product of decades of war, reaction, and decay within the ruling class and all its official institutions. The present crisis within the administration, marked by high profile cabinet member firings and resignations and unproven allegations of “Russian hacking,” is a fight among the Democratic and Republican factions of the ruling class to control the government and dictate the foreign policy of US imperialism.
The fact that the working class has no allies in this fight is proven by where the two parties agree.
While telling workers there is “not enough money” for wage increases, or to fund social programs, both parties hailed the recent construction of the U.S.S. Gerald Ford, a massive aircraft carrier that cost $13 billion to build, stuffing the pockets of numerous contractors and war profiteers. In the name of the fraudulent “war on terror,” the ruling class has drained trillions of dollars on wars fought for corporate profit that have left millions dead and destroyed whole countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.
Both parties have also expressed their desire to “cooperate” on a health care law aimed at boosting the profits of the insurance, hospital, and pharmaceutical corporations. Under the Democrats’ disastrous Obamacare program, millions are paying skyrocketing premiums for barebones coverage. The Republican proposals use Obamacare as a jumping-off point to make further cuts to workers’ coverage, including by gutting billions from Medicaid subsidies.
ions over the The wealth gap that separates the ruling class from the vast majority of the poplast 40 years. The primary role of the AFL-CIO today is to block strikes and prevent workers from linking up with one another in a common struggle for social equality.
Amazon and other corporations want workers to view one another—including those in line with one another at Amazon’s job fair—as competition. In reality, workers in the US and all over the world are linked by common class interests, regardless of their race, gender, nationality, religion, immigration status, or sexual orientation.
Amazon’s vast international supply chains, spurred by advancements in the areas of communication, transportation and engineering, are transforming social relations, linking the international working class in different industries together in the process of production like never before.
The conditions for bringing the world economy into harmony with the needs of the human race are already present. But under capitalism, these progressive tendencies are turned against the working class and society as a whole. The advances in technology and the global integration of production become weapons in the hands of the capitalist class to destroy jobs and living standards for the broad masses of people, while the conflict between the global character of economic life and the nation-state system of capitalism erupts in the form of militarism and war.
What is required is the socialist transformation of the world economy, expropriating the wealth of corporations like Amazon and turning them from for-profit exploitative giants into international public services, organized and directed democratically by the workers themselves.
Voice (Facebook.com/AmazonWorkersVoice), which exposes exploitative working conditions in Amazon fulfillment centers around the world and serves as a platform for organizing opposition among Amazon workers internationally.

Amazon’s Bezos passes Bill Gates as world’s richest person


July 27 (UPI) — Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Internet retail giant Amazon, overtook Microsoft founder Bill Gates as the world’s richest person on Thursday, according to a real-time ranking compiled by Forbes magazine.
A 1 percent surge in the price of Amazon shares accounts for the wealth Bezos has accumulated, at least on paper, enabling him to surpass Gates with $91 billion in assets on the Forbes list Thursday. Gates was listed with $90 billion.
Shares of Amazon have increased about 40 percent in the last year and have traded at over $1,000 per share during that time. According to regulatory filings, Bezos owns about 81 million shares of Amazon, accounting for roughly 17 percent of the company he founded.
Bezos also owns The Washington Post and the space exploration company Blue Origin, which he founded and funds with the sale of $1 billion in Amazon stock each year, according to The New York Times.
Gates’ wealth has also increased as Microsoft stock has enjoyed recent success. He still owns 191 million shares of the company, a 2.46 percent stake worth $14 billion.
Gates has diversified his wealth since stepping away from day-to-day leadership at Microsoft and now oversees Cascade Investments, the company he formed to manage his vast fortune. Cascade has a wide array of business interests, including private equity, public stock holdings and real estate.
The Forbes list does not count the money Gates has donated to his charitable organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as part of his personal fortune.
Gates has been ranked No. 1 on the Forbes richest person list in 18 of the last 23 years.

Government gives Amazon millions in free money for Romulus, Michigan warehouse

By Robert Verdine
25 July 2017
Amazon has announced that it plans to move forward on the construction of a new warehouse in Romulus, Michigan after being confirmed for a grant by the State of Michigan’s “Strategic Fund Board” to the tune of $5 million in public city funds. This comes on the heels of the recent decision to give $7.5 million in corporate welfare for another Amazon construction project in the Detroit suburb of Livonia.
The new site plans on utilizing the existing metropolitan airport, which will also see large sums of capital invested as part of an economic partnership between the state and major corporate entities known as the Detroit Region Aerotropolis (DRA).
In addition, Amazon has its sights set on a third location in the Detroit Metro area in Shelby Township at the site of an old Visteon plant, an auto parts maker for Ford. The board of trustees for the Macomb County Brownfield Redevelopment authority and the township’s planning commission gave approval for the project last week. As stated on the township’s web site, a main component of the plan will be the granting of various tax incentives.
This past week, the Livonia City Council furnished Amazon with an industrial facilities exemption certificate approved unanimously by the board. The certificate would “provide an exemption from ad valorem real and/or personal property taxes on the property. The application turned in to the city earlier this summer requests the certificate for 12 years, the maximum amount allowed by the state,” hometimelife.com reports.
Other cities in the US rust belt are also making similar deals. The city of Cleveland is considering a similar package of tax and other various financial incentives for the redevelopment by Amazon of the Randall Park Mall site, formerly a major shopping hub whose retail anchors have been the main retailers put out of business by Amazon. Sears, Macy’s, JCPenney and Burlington Coat Factory were all former tenants.
This kind of economic arrangement is similar to deals Amazon has extorted all over the world. In 2013, the UK newspaper the Independent reported that “Amazon’s corporate tax bill was just £2.44 million – less than the £2.5 million it received from the Scottish Government in inducements to build a new distribution warehouse in Dunfermline.” The report goes on to detail some of the methods that Amazon and other multinationals use to avoid paying taxes on profits to government authorities.
“Amazon manages to pay only a tiny fraction of its profits in corporation tax because all sales to British customers are routed through a Luxembourg affiliate, Amazon EU Sarl,” the Independent writes. “It is funded by fees it receives from Amazon EU and since these only just cover operating costs, little is left over for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to tax. Amazon EU pays little tax in Luxembourg because it pays hundreds of millions of euros each year in fees to a tax exempt affiliate, also registered in Luxembourg.”
The company that Jeff Bezos founded in 1995 as an online bookstore now increasingly controls the fundamental infrastructure of the economy. Its Amazon Web Services division currently provides the computing backbone for much of the country, including the CIA. Its massive network of distribution centers and warehouses in every major US city has displaced local shipping industries. Amazon sales also increased 23 percent in the first quarter of 2017, climbing to $35.7 billion. On one day alone, July 11, 2017, the company reported that it sold $2.9 billion worth of goods.
While the ruling class claims that there is no money available to meet the most critical social needs of working people, state and local governments engage in a bidding war seeking to attract lucrative deals from large capitalist enterprises like Amazon and in the process drive down pay, benefits, and overall working conditions.
The online retail giant has received innumerable public grants from states seeking to lure the company into investing in capital in their regions. Fairfax County, Virginia has recently given a massive handout of $43 million for construction of a new distribution center. Last year, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf submitted a similar proposal, which was accepted by Amazon on behalf of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development. The proposal included a $5 million dollar “First Program” grant and $15 million in tax credits. Massachusetts announced its own deal in April 2015 which included $14.8 million incentives and credits for Amazon warehouses.
Financial papers and journals have meanwhile touted the deals by Romulus and Livonia as a supposed boon to job creation. The reality is that Amazon is notorious globally for paying poverty wages and severely exploiting and abusing its workforce. Workers are given a stick-and-carrot routine, promised bonuses and education assistance when signing on, promises which are postponed and then reneged on time and time again. Ironically, the repurposed former auto plants that are being purchased and refitted by Amazon will provide jobs that pay less than half as much in starting wages as were formerly paid to autoworkers at these facilities.

Amazon CEO Bezos makes $1.4 billion Thursday morning, briefly becoming world’s richest person

By Evan Blake
28 July 2017
Around the time Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos woke up Thursday, he became the richest person in the world after making roughly $1.4 billion shortly following the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange. With an estimated net worth of $90.9 billion, Bezos briefly surpassed Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who had been the world’s richest person since May 2013.
Bezos’s fortune stems almost entirely from being the largest shareholder of Amazon stock, of which he owns roughly 17 percent. With the company slated to report strong earnings and growth in its quarterly earnings report released Thursday evening, its stock surged 1.6 percent shortly after the NASDAQ opened Thursday morning, reaching a high of $1,083.31 per share at mid-day.
The released earnings report, however, differed from what analysts had predicted and caused Amazon’s stock price to fall 3 percent to $1,012.68 in after-hours trading Thursday evening. The company reported earnings per share of only $0.40 cents per share, far below the predicted $1.42 per share. Bezos finished the day as the second richest person, trailing Gates by just $1.1 billion.
Under capitalism, the daily fluctuations of the market cause figures such as Bezos and Gates to win or lose hundreds of millions—or even billions—of dollars on an hourly basis, while the vast majority of the population struggles to survive.
The obscene amounts of money that Bezos accrued early Thursday and in recent years contrasts sharply with the low wages earned by Amazon’s global workforce. While Bezos netted $1.4 billion in his sleep, it would take 54,280 years for a graveyard shift worker in one of Amazon’s warehouses in the US to earn the same amount.
As the International Amazon Workers Voice (IAWV) reported last month, super-exploited Amazon warehouse workers in India make just $233 per month. Thus, it would take an Indian Amazon warehouse worker 500,715 years to earn the same amount that Bezos did overnight.
Coinciding with the rise of the stock market, Amazon’s stock value has skyrocketed over 40 percent this year alone. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Bezos has cashed in with $24.5 billion since January. In the past five years, a period of almost uninterrupted stock market boom, Bezos has made an astounding $70.4 billion.
Bezos’s wealth is so vast that it would be enough to end homelessness in the US and provide access to water and sanitation for the entire global population, according to figures from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
After a summer of skyrocketing share value, the company’s market capitalization surpassed $500 billion for the first time on Wednesday, joining the exclusive set of fellow tech giants Apple, Google and Microsoft.
Earlier this summer, Amazon began acquisition negotiations with Whole Foods, which also propelled Amazon stock and netted Bezos another $2.88 billion in a single day. The deal portends a massive shift in the grocery industry, as Amazon aims to introduce technology to make superfluous jobs that currently employ millions of people, including cashier positions.
On July 11, Amazon held its annual Prime Day event, a sales bonanza in which numerous items were discounted, including Amazon-produced technology like the Echo Dot. The company afterwards announced that the sales event was their “biggest day ever” in terms of overall sales—a 60 percent increase over Prime Day 2016. In the 30-hour time frame of the event, they surpassed their combined sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2016 and added more Prime members than ever before.
The rise of Amazon and the billions accumulated by Bezos have been built upon the exploitation of its workforce worldwide, which faces brutal working conditions. Over the past few weeks, building up to and after Prime Day, workers at Amazon’s immense distribution warehouses have been under intense pressure to meet productivity requirements. Thousands of workers have been forced to work mandatory overtime, often at least 60 hours per week.
At most “fulfillment centers” across the US, inbound workers are already stocking up for the “peak” holiday shopping season and have continued to work mandatory overtime. Inbound workers have told the IAWV that they come home so stressed out from the thought of having to go back to work overtime the next day that they cannot fall asleep, creating a grueling feedback loop of overwork, stress and sleep deprivation.
Inside the facilities, workers are forced to labor under the intense summer heat. Workers frequently collapse from heat exhaustion, at which point they are simply advised to take a break and then get back to work.
This brutal exploitation is the real source of Amazon’s climbing stock value and Bezos’s soaring wealth. Without the labor of Amazon workers, there would be no profits. The wealth that Bezos has extracted from Amazon workers must be seized and redirected to meet social needs, not hoarded away in his private bank accounts and stock portfolio.
The way forward for Amazon workers requires that they form links with their coworkers internationally and fight to build independent rank-and-file committees, which will be used to unite with the international working class more broadly.

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