Tech

Amazon is clashing with Democrats on Twitter over unionization and taxes

The company's combative PR strategy could just be making things worse.

UNITED STATES - MARCH 01: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., conducts a news conference in the Capitol to introduce the Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act which would tax high net worth households on Monday, March 1, 2021. Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., also attended. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc./Getty Images

Amazon’s PR team has taken a combative stance on Twitter as the company faces increasing attacks from Democrats over taxation, and fights a unionization effort amongst its warehouse workers in Alabama.

Just yesterday, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren shared a video on Twitter calling out tech giants for “manipulating the tax code to avoid paying their fair share.”

The video was filmed during a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee in which Kimberly Clausing, the Treasury’s deputy assistant secretary of tax analysis, said that Amazon paid an effective tax rate of 4.5 percent between 2018 and 2020. The corporate tax rate is 21% percent. Amazon achieved this through “loopholes and tax shelters,” Warren says in the video.

Catfight — Amazon quickly shot back with snark, replying, “You make the tax laws @SenWarren; we just follow them. If you don’t like the laws you’ve created, by all means, change them.” It went on to say that it has paid “billions of dollars” in corporate taxes over the past few years, ignoring the fact that the average American pays far more than 4.5 percent annually.

In response, Warren hit back, saying, “I didn’t write the loopholes you exploit, @amazon — your armies of lawyers and lobbyists did. But you bet I’ll fight to make you pay your fair share. And fight your union-busting.”

Amazon is facing its first push by its American workforce to form a union. Employees at its Bessemer, Alabama warehouse are hoping to gain a greater voice in their workplace conditions as Amazon’s expectations and quotas become increasingly stringent, to the point that workers report they sometimes pee into bottles out of fear of missing their targets. Amazon began monitoring its delivery drivers with a series of AI-powered cameras that monitor their every movement; workers must consent to the new monitoring or be fired.

Corporate greed — It’s true that Amazon pays workers $15 per hour, higher than the minimum wage. But many of them still depend on federal assistance to supplement their income, despite the fact that Amazon makes billions in profits in an average quarter and CEO Jeff Bezos’ net worth has skyrocketed to nearly $200 billion over the last year. Those achievements would have never been possible without the help of Amazon’s one-million-strong workforce. It’s not unreasonable or socialist to expect the company to give enough back so that those workers can live comfortable lives and provide their families with greater access to opportunity.

“If you want to hear about $15 an hour and health care, Senator Sanders will be speaking downtown,” tweeted Amazon’s Dave Clark, ahead of the senator’s plans to meet with Alabama warehouse workers voting on unionization. “But if you would like to make $15 an hour and have good health care, Amazon is hiring.” To say nothing of healthcare being tied to employment, which traps workers in jobs they may not like. The rate of serious injury in Amazon warehouses is higher than the industry average, even as it increasingly automates its facilities to eventually replace workers.

Read the room — Unsurprisingly, sentiment on Twitter about Amazon’s defensive tactic is less than positive. “When you pay 2% while the middle class pays 25 to 37%,” one user wrote. “It's probably better to bite the bullet on a flat 7% as opposed to reminding us all how GREEDY AF YOUR COMPANY IS.”

Warren recently proposed an “ultra-millionaire” tax on individuals with net worths of more than $50 million. Under the proposal, Bezos would have paid a $5.7 billion tax in 2020. Still leaving him with nearly $200 billion in cash.