Amazon.com could face some scrutiny tonight as City of Seattle design officials consider the company’s planned expansion near downtown. The pro-labor group Working Washington — a critic of the conditions in Amazon.com’s fulfillment centers as well as the company’s stance on taxes — said it plans to raise issues at the meeting about the company’s tactics.
“If Amazon.com designed a headquarters campus that reflects the hidden truth of their corporate behavior, they would be proposing a design that reveals some inconvenient truths they’d rather keep secret,” the organization writes on its Web site.
It then offers some unflattering answers to questions that Amazon will be facing at the design commission meeting, including whether the new facilities will have room for ambulance and car campers. Working Washington writes:
Will there be reserved parking for ambulances & car campers?
“Working conditions were so rough at Amazon’s Pennsylvania warehouse that they stationed paramedics outside to treat workers who collapsed from heat exhaustion. Their Nevada warehouse is staffed by temporary migrant workers, some of whom camp in the desert during the holiday season. Is this what can we expect to be going on behind the scenes of their glossy corporate headquarters — or are these kinds of conditions only good enough for warehouse workers?
(Design Review Guideline D-4: “Provide appropriate signage”. If Amazon’s corporate behavior requires parking outside their facilities for ambulances, they should be marked that way for all to see.)
A spokeswoman for Amazon.com declined to comment when contacted by GeekWire about Working Washington’s claims.
Amazon.com has taken several hits over the past year as it relates to its treatment of warehouse workers, not to mention bad publicity over its stance on collecting sales taxes in some states.
Meanwhile, the company also has been rapidly expanding in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. The online retailer’s arrival in the neighborhood has not always been welcomed. Yellow flyers began appearing around the neighborhood earlier this year pointing out what some believed was the annoying behavior of workers at the tech giant. The company’s lack of support of community arts and culture organizations also has been criticized over the year, with The Stranger penning this headline last December: Does Amazon.com care about Seattle?
Sage Wilson of Working Washington tells GeekWire that members of the organization plan to raise awareness of “some lesser-known corporate practices of Amazon.com, especially with regard to tax-dodging and treatment of warehouse workers.”
He said it won’t be a “protest in a traditional sense” since they have no intention of disrupting the meeting and don’t have a position on the planned campus expansion, which happens to be the reason for the meeting.
“We support the idea of more good jobs in Seattle — we just also support the idea of good jobs in warehouses, and the idea that major corporations should pay their fair share of taxes, not the 5.5 percent effective federal income tax rate Amazon paid last year,” Wilson said. “This is the first major public event in a months-long campaign we’re launching in Seattle to hold Amazon accountable for its tax dodging, bad employment practices, and other policies.”
He said that Working Washington — a coalition of individuals, community groups, labor unions and faith organizations — plans to host more community forums and events related to Amazon.com in the coming weeks.