NEW YORK – The richest man in the world wanted to thank the people who made his short trip to space possible on Tuesday.
But for some, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ expression of gratitude was like a rocket of lead.
“I want to thank all the Amazon employees and all the Amazon customers because you guys paid for all of this,” said Bezos, 57, during a news conference Tuesday after becoming the second billionaire in just over a week. in traveling in yours. spacecraft.
Bezos turned Amazon into a shopping and entertainment giant, but he has faced growing activism within his own workforce and has increased pressure from critics to improve working conditions.
Amazon labor groups and workers have claimed the company doesn’t offer its employees enough hourly breaks, relies too heavily on rigid productivity metrics and has unsafe working conditions. An effort to unionize workers at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama failed earlier this year.
Robert Reich, President Bill Clinton’s former Labor Secretary and a public policy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote on Twitter that Bezos has crushed unionization attempts for decades.
“Amazon workers don’t need Bezos to thank them. They need him to stop union repression and to get paid what they deserve, “Reich wrote.
Bezos resigned as CEO of Amazon in July, giving him more time for side projects, including his space exploration company Blue Origin. He has said that he finances the rocket company by selling $ 1 billion in Amazon stock each year.
After the spaceflight, Bezos gave donations of $ 100 million through a new philanthropic initiative to DC chef José Andrés and CNN contributor Van Jones to go to any non-profit or charity in the United States. your choice. Jones has founded a number of nonprofit organizations and Andres’ nonprofit group, World Central Kitchen, provides meals to people after natural disasters.
However, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who is on the Ways and Means Committee drafting taxes, proposed legislation Tuesday that would tax space travel for non-scientific research purposes.
“Space exploration is not a tax-free holiday for the rich,” said Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon. “Just as normal Americans pay taxes when they buy airline tickets, billionaires who fly into space to produce nothing of scientific value should do the same, and something else.”
Others linked his space flight to reports that Bezos has not paid his fair share of taxes. According to the nonprofit investigative journalism organization ProPublica, Bezos paid no income taxes in 2007 and 2011.
“Jeff Bezos forgot to thank all hardworking Americans who actually paid taxes to keep this country running while he and Amazon paid nothing,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, tweeted.
Allen Adamson, co-founder of marketing consultancy Metaforce, says Bezos finds it challenging to say where the money for space travel is coming from without being offensive. He says he should have skipped those comments and focused on thanking the Blue Origin team.
“For people who have a problem with inequality and their compensation versus average employee compensation, this was rocket fuel,” Adamson said.
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