The labor group Working Washington was behind a public protest on the Seattle Art Museum Tuesday night

The Seattle Art Museum is known for its 48-foot tall Hammering Man, an outdoor sculpture that greets visitors and — in the words of the artist — is meant to portray the “worker in all of us.”

So, it wasn’t lost on us Tuesday night when the labor group Working Washington, and an affiliate group known as Other 98, took its latest protest on workers’ rights to the exterior walls of the Seattle Art Museum.

To elevate their message, the groups projected light displays on the walls of the building, calling out the online retailer’s business practices. plans to host its annual meeting at the Seattle Art Museum Thursday, and Working Washington’s Sage Wilson said that the display was meant to raise awareness of the “loopholes” that uses “to dodge their taxes.”

It’s unclear to us whether such a display on private property is illegal, and we’ve reached out to the Seattle Art Museum to get their take on how they feel about their walls being used as a canvas for Working Washington’s message. (Any lawyers out there have ideas on the legality of this?)

The group does not plan to project the display tonight, but Wilson said that they have other protests in the works in advance of Thursday’s meeting. Today, for example, the group plans to float a “thought bubble” next to the Hammering Man with the question “What if Amazon paid its fair share?”

The display came a few hours after GeekWire reported that erected a sign at the company’s South Lake Union headquarters warning protestors to stay off the property or face prosecution for criminal trespass.

“Amazon excluded the public from its public plaza yesterday because they were apparently afraid of 10 people reading a story,” Wilson said in an email to GeekWire. “But they didn’t have a way to exclude these light projections from the side of the Seattle Art Museum last night.”

UPDATE: A spokeswoman for the Seattle Art Museum said that Working Washington did not have permission to project the images onto the building.

“We were not contacted about the projection and they did not have our permission.  This has not occurred before and we are talking internally about the issue,” said Cara Egan.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


  • john

    This dumbassery and disrespect of private property by “Working Washington” has convinced me to buy even more of my products from Amazon. I hate bullies who think they can get their message across any way they want.

    • AnonymousIs

      And then there are those dumb people who try to turn everything around and make a group of activists working to make the world a better place into the bad guys.  Nice try though, corporate shill.  What a tool.

      • Ballard_Fisherman

        I liked the first part of your response.  Why would you then insult him and call him a tool?  I get your message but when you start insulting people like that you lose me.  Not cool and it makes you guys look juvenile when you start calling people corporate shills and tools. 

    • Jonah

      The shortsightedness is pretty staggering if this relates to Sales Tax.  Amazon pays sales tax on its own corporate expenditures.  What I think a portion of this protest relates to is sales tax passthrough, where Amazon just facilitates the remittances that consumers owe.  Technically, on all purchases where you are not taxed, the consumer should submit the sales tax to the state tax authority (which never happens). 

      So i don’t quite understand the issue on taxes, if Amazon were to be forced to collect and remit all sales taxes from consumer purchases, then I think a couple of things would happen;

      1) Prices on Amazon would go up, as a result of taxes being now added on.  This impacts only the consumer at the point of sale, as Amazon is merely a passthrough entity.

      2) Consumers might then choose not to use Amazon because the price advantage is gone.  This impacts Amazon and/or affiliates local to that consumer as their sales decrease.  Amazon and affiliates may lower prices and profit margins (already pretty slim in retail) will decrease, meaning Amazon will invest less in the Seattle area in the form of headcount and infrastructure.  Or, they may increase prices to offset decrease in volume.  Either way, not sure how this benefits everyone.

      The notion that there isn’t a layer of inefficiency added when government gets involved through the collection of tax receipts and administers a program makes very little sense to me.

      Not sure about the other issues..seems like jobs are in a shortage overall, and Amazon is having no trouble hiring people, so apparently their rights for workers can’t be all that bad.

      As AnonymousIs has shown, it is tough to have a rational discussion on this matter with those who believe South Lake Union would have developed without Amazon.

      I imagine I have a typo or grammatical error somewhere in this post that someone will latch on to me being an idiot.

      • Sage, Working Washington

        While there are issues on sales taxes as well, our primary tax focus is federal corporate income tax. Amazon’s effective federal income tax rate last year was 2.6%. The statutory rate is 35%. That’s a lot of loopholes… that need closing. 

        • Jonah

          I guess I am a little confused by that statement, they disclose their effective U.S. rate as 31.2% on pg. 66 of the 10-K.  Where are you getting the 2.6% from?  Even cash payments weren’t as low as 2.6% of EBT.

          The bulk of the discrepancy between 31.2% and 35% is the earnings that are taxed in overseas jurisdictions and remain in those overseas jurisdictions; I don’t believe it makes sense to have tax on income that wasn’t earned here and that doesn’t ever come here.  Pretty easy to argue that Amazon, along with Microsoft, Apple, every company on earth, would be more likely to bring those funds back to the U.S. and reinvest in the United States in some form or fashion versus reinvesting overseas if repatriation taxes were eliminated.  Probably could have easily replaced the stimulus package that was at the direct burden to taxpayers by allowing companies to bring back the trillions sitting overseas.

          Ultimately, no corporation really pays income tax and still works like a passthrough; they adjust pricing and operations to either have customers or employees pay, either through higher prices, hiring fewer employees or lower wages. 

          • Jonah

            And I do agree that the tax code needs simplifying, but I wish the protests were directed at the writers of the tax code, not those following the tax code as designed.  Not only would you see a reduction in tax contingencies by companies as the tax code would be more clear, you would reduce the cost of companies to comply with the tax code, the cost of government to administer the tax code, and you would have alot of bright people who would no longer be spending their time on this and may ultimately benefit us all by applying their intelligence to something more thoughtful.

        • Eric

          Unless you have evidence that Amazon is paying an unlawfully low amount of income tax, please take your protest to DC where the tax policy is actually decided. 
          Do you honestly believe Amazon will start paying more income tax than the IRS requires if only you spend enough time standing on the sidewalk outside their headquarters or projecting doctored versions of their corporate logo on the outside of an art museum?

          • Gina Peterson

            Please take your education further. Check out, the  Seattle Times article on 5/24/12 regarding  Mr. B’s  tax manipulation tactics in California, to again create poverty wage jobs in towns that have 20+% unemployment rates. Here’s the deal. The state will again, be paying for med. care. food stamp, type supplements., there is no state or federal dental care, so the brain infarctions  and endocarditis caused by dental disease will burden state and federal funds further, because their care becomes ICU care,brain damage care and life time disability care. How do I Know? Worked at Harborview Med.Center for 16.5 Yrs. full time +5yrs 1/2 time + O.T.Worked 9.5yrs at Children’s Hosp. Center. these facilities take all,” CHARITY CARE”, which equates to no pay or partial pay patients. That means that taxpayers pay the bills for non insured patients, such warehouse workers, uninsured working poor and non-employed + prisoners and all persons who can’t afford full insured care. So if you have a good union job or are you Eric, you are paying for Jeff Besoz salary and his greed and exploitation of state and federal government. For me, I have seen a 19 yr. old, stroke out from a tooth abscess after he had achieved a full athletic college schoolership. Now, he’s on state disability. That’s on your dime and mine. See how that breaks down, Eric!

    • Guy_Fawkes

      Haha.  I’m wondering how you claim they disrespected private property?  Is SAM going to go to Olympia and cry because someone actually made some demonstration and performance art on the ART BUILDING????

    • Gina Peterson

      My Dad was a World War 2 officer on the Pacific Front. AIR CORE, Has 2 college degrees, put his life up for Civil Rights, was a Machinist, labor organizer, was persecuted by McCarthy and MacCarren acts, still worked in farm workers rights anti-nuke protests +++. He is 95 yrs. old,now. So his name is John. Now, I chop wood on  a wood block that has a higher I.Q. than you. Don’t disgrace his name further, WOODY!

  • Quimble

    I see these Working Washington people throwing mysterious numbers around and asking people to “join the cause” but I don’t see any due diligence or reference to where they are coming up with this stuff.  Why should I join, simply because you said so?  Give me some solid proof here.

    • Guest

      Follow the money, Quimble, and you’ll find that “Working Washington” is a group bankrolled by none other than Amazon itself to provide the illusion of dissent. Note the incoherent, punchless protests and the satirical “representative” that claims to post on its behalf.

      For more information on such tactics, open Yahoo! Axis and search “fifth column.”

  • Guy_Fawkes

    They should expose JPMorgan Chase, who is enveloping the FDIC into their fraud.  They are now claiming that NONE of the WaMu loans were securitized.  Therefore, they are claiming ownership of these loans through the FDIC receivership.  It’s nice when you can use a governmental agency to legitimize your crimes.

  • Anonymous

    Amazon is one of the few companies who have never seen a downturn in hiring.  While their warehouse jobs won’t make you rich, they are always offering the highest paying warehouse jobs in any area…it’s how they compete for talent.  AND they are converting associates to full-time jobs in increasing numbers…and opening another 7 new buildings in the US this year.  I know this because I work at Amazon.

    • Guy Fawkes

      Annnnnd…..they don’t pay much income tax……so I guess I could expand quite a bit too, if I didn’t have to pay…..

Job Listings on GeekWork