obama-headshotPresident Barack Obama will visit an Amazon.com fulfillment center in Tennessee next week to talk about the country’s economy, manufacturing and high-wage jobs.

Obama’s choice of Amazon is interesting on a couple accounts. For one, Amazon has taken several hits over the past few years as it relates to its treatment of warehouse workers, with some workers in Pennsylvania being taken out in wheelchairs and stretchers after suffering from heat stress two summers ago.

In addition, Amazon — as well as Obama — supports the Marketplace Fairness Act, which could make it easier for states to collect sales tax from purchases made online, whether the online retailer has a physical retail presence in the state or not.

The measure, which passed the Senate in May and is now under consideration in the House, is expected to pave the way to a more cohesive sales tax collection process, rather than what some view as a mishmash system that now varies by state.

amazonlogo11Previously, Amazon had battled states over the collection of sales tax, but began changing its tune on the issue about one year ago.

Amazon made a deal with Tennessee two years ago to build two distribution centers at a cost of $350 million that would employ 3,500 full-time workers in the state. In exchange, Amazon would not start collecting sales tax in the state in 2014. 

There’s already one protest in the works when Obama arrives in Chattanooga on Tuesday, as the Tennessee Campaign for Liberty will be protesting Obama for his support of the Marketplace Fairness Tax. It certainly isn’t the first time protestors have targeted the Seattle online retail giant.

Previously on GeekWire: Why Amazon and other retailers are supporting this national sales tax legislation 

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  • asdf

    as a Seattleite, I appreciate the coverage of local companies, but the number of shameless links to other Geekwire articles is way overdone. It comes across as, “how can we use this relatively non-news story to link to as many previous articles we’ve featured on site?” instead of providing insight into local tech news. Avid reader of your site, just my 2 cents.

    • johnhcook

      We think adding links to past and related content is a service, not a disservice for readers. That said, you can always choose not to click on the links. Thanks for the feedback.

  • Mark MacKay

    Obama makes a poor choice by framing his comments within an Amazon warehouse. Amazon managers callously had ambulances on stand-by – waiting for workers to succumb to the heat. That’s a solution? Obama is positioning himself as a solution of for the plight of working class Americans. He needs to improve his choice of associates. Perhaps a company that supports workers, provides a fair wage and heath insurance? Though those companies are more and more difficult to find in the US.

    • Susan Lindsey

      As pointed out, Amazon is cutting favorable deals with states that achieve often undisclosed favors in excahgne for building very huge, expensive warehouses and creating jobs. In order to build consumer support, for the 7,000 related jobs for recent deals, Amazon is claiming higher wages (off set by obtaining building sites in the lowest paying tax districts and also being allowed several state tax free operation). Big business aligned with big government shaking hands in order to mutually benefit each other. Follow the money! Tax payers and consumers imo have a right to be concerned. They are paying to support the growth of big business and big government and getting little in return! Enough is enough!

  • tzalinsky

    So Amazon gets tax breaks, the online consumer does not. So much for changing the wealth gap from another Obama speech of empathy.

    • Susan Lindsey

      Exactly. And the taxpayer is hit in two pays, 1) paying for Internet purchases, which places the smaller remote seller in the unenviable, burdensome position of becoming a tax collector who must deal with a multitude of complex tax codes and remits use tax all over the country and contend with audits filed by money hungry states who will eagerly cross state borders and claim whatever they can get, and 2) the state taxpayer funding the cost of implements (cost of the “free” software and audit costs) that a respected, neutral accounting association has determined will cost more than the use tax collected.

      However, Amazon (as well as other big box companies) and big government would gain much! Makes me believe that this country is resorting to feudalistic serfdom in which self-serving taxing of the American citizen, rather the creation of sound fiscal management, is disguised by the illusion of generating more jobs. It seems that Obama’s “New Deal” plan to pull the United States out of the recession is to grow big business, with smaller business America becoming the sacrificial lambs! And all at the taxpayer’s cost!

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