Billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has been hailed for donating US$33million of his fortune to a scholarship fund for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, while more than 700 Amazon employees have to rely on foodstamps to feed themselves.
News outlets CNBC, Politico, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times published glowing reports on his philanthropic gesture benefitting immigrants, which comes on the heels of US President Donald Trump promising to revoke immigration protection for some 200,000 El Salvadorans living in the United States and referring to Haiti and African nations as "shithole countries."
But a recent study by Policy Matters Ohio indicates that more than 700 local Amazon employees – the bulk of Bezos' staff, who ensure products are correctly sorted, packaged and dispatched – have to rely on foodstamps to survive.
Amazon reportedly received more than $17million in tax breaks in Ohio to open its first two distribution centers, according to The Daily Beast. This act of corporate welfare, which was recorded in 2015, was hailed by lawmakers as a job-creator.
Yet the company has also faced multiple lawsuits and complaints. According to a report by The Morning Call, Amazon employees in Allentown, Pennsylvania, worked in a warehouse where the heat index reached some 102 degrees Farenheit. At least 15 collapsed from heat exhaustion.
"I never felt like passing out in a warehouse and I never felt treated like a piece of crap in any other warehouse but this one," said Elmer Goris, who worked at the Lehigh Valley site.
Three plaintiffs sued Amazon in 2015, claiming that the company violated wage and hour policies in San Bernardino, California. Two years later, Amazon workers in Sacramento said they were denied overtime pay and rest breaks, according to Salon.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Amazon has been criticized in Scotland for not signing up to the government's "fair work" program, despite having received more than £5.3million (US$7.28million) of taxpayers' money to help spur job growth.
Forbes lists Bezos' wealth at US$108billion, meaning his "philanthropic" donation to DACA recipients equates to roughly 0.03 percent of his total fortune.