By Agence France-Presse
As Amazon becomes an increasingly important lifeline in the pandemic crisis, it is being hit with a wave of criticism from activists, politicians and others who question the tech giant’s growing influence.
Amazon has become the most scrutinized company during the health emergency.
It has boosted its global workforce to nearly one million and dealt with protests over warehouse safety and reported deaths of several employees.
But Amazon has also pledged to spend at least $4 billion in the current quarter — its entire expected operating profit — on coronavirus mitigation efforts, including relief contributions and funding research.
Amazon’s AWS cloud computing unit, which powers big portions of the internet, is also a key element during the crisis with more people and companies working online.
Amazon’s market value has hovered near record levels around $1.2 trillion dollars as it reported rising revenues and lower profits in the past quarter.
“Its sheer size justifies the scrutiny,” said Dania Rajendra of the activist group Athena, a coalition which is focused specifically on Amazon’s corporate activity and treatment of workers.
Athena activists fret that Amazon, which also controls one of the major streaming television services, infiltrates so many aspects of people’s lives.
Rankling many activists, the rise in Amazon’s shares has boosted the wealth of founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos to over $140 billion even as the global economy has been battered by the virus outbreak.
Amazon has faced employee walkouts at several facilities over safety and hazard pay and has been accused of firing people for speaking out against the company.
“It’s a minority going on strike but the sentiment represents thousand if not hundreds of thousands,” said Steve Smith of the California Labor Federation.
While Amazon has boosted base pay to $15 an hour, above the minimum wage required, and added bonuses during the pandemic, activists say it’s insufficient, especially in high-cost states like California.
“This company can afford to make these jobs middle class jobs, good jobs,” Smith said.