The world doesn't need trillionaires

Illustration by Aleah Green

The COVID-19 pandemic caused an explosion of Amazon orders putting CEO and founder Jeff Bezos on the track to become the world’s first trillionaire. However, I think someone who evades paying taxes and treats their employees terribly does not deserve this much money.

Business advice website Comparisun reported that Jeff Bezos may become the first trillionaire by 2026 — they did this by analyzing how much his company has grown and how much revenue it has amassed.

The Guardian reported that Amazon made $75.4 billion in the first three months of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. That is about $33 million an hour. Business Insider reported that Bezos makes $8.9 million an hour. An Amazon employee who makes $15 per hour would have to work 24 hours a day for 68 years to earn what Bezos makes in one hour.

With this much revenue coming in, it’s hard to imagine why employee salaries and precautionary measures have not changed.

In February, The Guardian published an article detailing the conditions of an Amazon warehouse in New York. Employee Rina Cummings told the publication he was expected to inspect and scan 1,800 packages every hour before they were delivered. Employees are often written up when they don’t meet these quotas, and if this happens consistently, that employee is fired.

Employees also said that they are not given enough breaks during their shifts. They were allotted two 15-minute breaks during their shift, but it can take that much time to walk across the warehouse to use the bathroom. They requested that these two break periods be combined but that request was ignored.

The health and safety of employees are also ignored. Cummings told The Guardian heavy packages often fall onto conveyer belts that injure employees. Managers often ignore medical restrictions that employees face. When employees go to the on-site medical unit, they are only given an aspirin and are told to return to work.

Safety concerns have only grown since the spread of the coronavirus. Employee Emily Cunningham told The Guardian that Amazon lacks safe and sanitary measures. This has led to workers contracting the virus in 74 warehouses across the country, according to The Washington Post. Cunningham and other workers have publicly called for safer work environments, leading to them being fired.

It’s safe to say that Bezos is not earning his fortune, but is exploiting and underpaying his employees — the backbone of his company — and avoiding paying federal taxes.

In 2017, Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which lowered the corporate income tax rate from 35% to 21%. This law left loopholes that let corporations avoid paying state and federal income taxes on their profits.

Amazon took full advantage of this law and was able to pay zero dollars in federal taxes in 2018 when it garnished $232 billion in revenue and $129 million from a federal tax refund.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to support local businesses rather than supporting gigantic corporations, because the world doesn’t need any more billionaires, let alone trillionaires.

Amazon should be looked at as a resource rather than a necessity. Getting nonessential items with two-day shipping is not worth letting employees be exposed to horrible conditions.

It should also go without saying, but do not shop with corporations when their employees are actively protesting and calling for better actions. Turning backs on these employees and siding with their oppressor is not going to encourage corporations to change.

Although corporations need to be help to a higher standard, consumers have some responsibility in who they support. I encourage people to be more cautious of who they are giving their hard-earned income to. Looking at how corporations treat their employees is a great way to gauge whether or not they deserve your dollar.