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Op-Ed

Who do you think you’re kidding?

November 18, 2022

I’d be more impressed with Jeff Bezos’ ballyhooed philanthropy if he paid his employees a living wage.

Robert Kahn

By Robert Kahn

Deputy editor emeritus, Courthouse News

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos made news this week by claiming he will donate to charity most of his $125 billion nest egg (down from $200 billion due to its stock price).

Bezos also twirled under the spotlights that he would give $100 million to Dolly Parton, to give away as she wished, and — oh, yeah — that he would lay off about 10,000 Amazon employees.

Well, with the median earnings for an Amazon employee a bit over $29,000, dumping those 10,000 employees will save Bezos $290 million this year — so, no skin off his nose. Or his bank account.

Sorry, Jeff, I’m not impressed. 

First off, everyone loves Dolly Parton — including me. How can you not? I’m not knocking Dolly here.

Bezos said — and I am not kidding — that it’s “really hard” to give away money, and maybe Dolly could help him.

Well, chief, how about paying your employees a living wage, for starters?

And stop calling the sheriff on your workers when they try to unionize?

(The numbers I cite today are culled from reports from the past three years. State, federal and private statisticians don’t coordinate their reports. Good. I’m not trying to juggle numbers. As Davey Crockett said at the Alamo: “I’m doin’ the best I can.”)

The median pay for an Amazon worker in 2020 was $29,007, a raise of $159 from 2019, according to Business Insider.

The federal poverty line for a family of three in Colorado this year is $28,788. For a family four it’s $34,688.

So let’s call it even: Bezos pays his employees poverty-line wages in Colorado.

In his home base, Seattle, Bezos’ paychecks are enough to allow a family of three to live on the street. I looked it up and couldn’t believe it. You look it up, and don’t blame me.

Before Amazon’s stock price dropped, Bezos was getting richer by $200 million a day, if you can believe The Guardian. Yet during those gravy days, Bezos was paying less than 4% of his income in taxes, according to Forbes.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been paying about 25% of my earnings in taxes for some years now. And I don’t mind doing it!

Just sayin’.

I buy cheese from a couple of Bezos’ Whole Foods grocery stores in Denver. I can say, without fear of contradiction, that many of his employees are disgruntled-to-pissed.

Why? Well, among other reasons, because the little scan-yourself-out machines in the stores are crap. They don’t work.

You have to call an attendant twice to help you check out once.

Bezos’ little check-yourself-out machines are not even as good as Kroger’s. His employees know it, and so do his customers.

I have heard, several times, Bezos’ employees tell each other, and me, that they wish he’d spend less money on his yacht, and more on his workers.

Bezos’ half-billion-dollar yacht, by the way, costs half a million dollars a day just to maintain, much less go anywhere on it.

He must pay the people who shine his shoes and deliver his fruit juice and scrape the barnacles off his little floating kingdom a hell of a lot more than he pays his peons at Whole Foods.

Hey, Jeff: How about letting your $500 million penis rest unattended for a day or two, and giving all of your “front-line” (grunt) employees a dollar-an-hour raise?

Wouldn’t hurt you, Jeff.

Believe me, you’ll never feel the difference.

And one more thing, Jeff: If a worker is paid a living wage, she won’t need charity.

Sorry, Jeff, but I don’t think you’re really a philanthropist. I think you’re a show-off.

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