As you likely know, Jeff Bezos is currently searching for a second headquarters for his company, Amazon. And much to the delight of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Mayor John Tory, Toronto has made the final cut of 20 cities being considered. Whoever lands the company is promised upwards of 50,000 well-paying jobs as well as bragging rights as a destination city. However, there is a dark side to this ostensible corporate munificence.
Recently, John Starkman wrote a cautionary piece:
Amazon derives its success because of its deliberate Darwinian culture that encourages combativeness and pits employees against each other. It is a fundamentally ruthless and predatory company.Indeed, if you click on the link embedded in the above excerpt, you will wonder whether the term 'cutthroat environment' does justice in describing the working conditions at Amazon.
It would seem that Amazon cares only about Amazon. It also appears to be a very bad corporate citizen:
The IRS is pursuing the company for allegedly owing $1.5 billion in unpaid taxes, the European Union in October hit the company with a $294 million tax bill, and last month Amazon had to pay $118 million to settle an Italian tax probe.In response to this article, the always thoughtful Star readers have offered their own insights, two of which I reproduce here:
Thank you, Eric Starkman, for speaking the unspeakable. No, we definitely don’t want Amazon in Canada. The jobs it might bring are not respectful to workers and Jeff Bezos has made it clear he’s not interested in paying taxes and contributing to the communities in which he makes his billions — $2.8 billion in one day and a net worth of more than $100 billion.The allure of a wealth of high-paying jobs is a siren call few can resist. However, as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. Given what is now known about Amazon, it is advice apparently well-worth heeding.
His contributions to charities, which only came after public shaming, are a pittance compared to the amount of money he is putting in his own pocket and hiding in offshore accounts.
He has made public statements that “the mission of Amazon is to become not the number-one retailer in the world, but the only retailer in the world. Imagine what that would do to small business. Yes, we would still be able to buy products, all from Jeff, but it would change the fabric of our society. What would our streets be like if there were no small businesses? No more storefront windows to look at, no opportunity to browse, no way to touch the clothes before you buy, no advice from someone who is knowledgeable?
And what would happen to all the people who no longer had an opportunity to put their creativity into their livelihood? I believe this is a greater threat than Walmart and other big-box stores, which have already had a huge negative impact on small business.
And do we really want to put all that power in one individual? Remember, we all vote with our pocketbooks and how we vote makes a difference. I for one am going to think long and hard before I put any more money in Jeff Bezos’s pocket. I hope you do the same.
Robin Alter, Toronto
The history of Amazon’s rise as a powerful online monopoly and its practices are largely unknown to people. What the average person knows about Amazon is an internet retailer that provides cheap goods with fast delivery. However, cheapness and speed come at a cost.
Amazon is not a retailer like any other we have seen before. It is a vast 21st-century digital monopoly that has skilfully manoeuvred around the U.S. antitrust laws and, with a predatory pricing system, spread its tentacles far and deep. Amazon accounts for more than 40 per cent of online retail sales in the U.S., with more revenue than the next top 10 online retailers combined.
Any move that Amazon makes has a long-term strategic element, with the idea of extending its power with little regard to the interest of citizens of the community. No city like Toronto, with caring neighbourhoods and communities, should want an Amazon headquarters in its backyard. The interests of those who advocate for an Amazon headquarters in Toronto are not necessarily the same as the interests of ordinary Torontonians and businesses. People of Toronto should carefully study both sides of the argument and decide.
Ali Orang, Richmond Hill