President Joe Biden has given Amazon, for which billionaire Jeff Bezos serves as chairman of the board, a $10 billion federal contract despite having pledged to American union workers not to reward corporations accused of union-busting tactics.
For years, Amazon has been accused of trying to prevent its warehouse workers across the United States from unionizing amid reports that the corporation has put its workforce in dangerous scenarios under ruthless shipping quotas.
In August 2021, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that Amazon had violated labor laws preventing its warehouse workers from unionizing when they tried to do so in Bessemer, Alabama. In February, Amazon was again accused of trying to prevent the warehouse workers from unionizing at the Alabama facility.
Last month warehouse workers at one of Amazon’s facilities in Staten Island, New York, voted to form the corporation’s first labor union. Amazon is now challenging the vote to unionize. Following the vote, Amazon has reportedly fired more than six of the Staten Island warehouse managers who fought to form the union.
A report from the Lever reveals that the Biden administration, despite Amazon’s history of interfering in unionization efforts, has rewarded the corporation with a massive federal contract after having vowed not to do so.
The Lever reports:
A day later, Nextgov reported that Biden’s National Security Agency (NSA) ratified a $10 billion cloud computing contract for Amazon, which hired the brother of Biden’s top aide as a lobbyist days after the 2020 presidential election. The contract for the company’s web services division is codenamed “Wild and Stormy,” and is distinct from another massive Pentagon cloud contract on which Amazon is also currently bidding. [Emphasis added]
A few days after Amazon received the NSA contract, the Amazon Labor Union lost its second union election bid by a 2-to-1 margin at another Staten Island warehouse, after Amazon mounted a furious campaign to halt the organizing drive. [Emphasis added]
In effect, while Amazon was doubling down on its union busting, the Biden administration was delivering a massive federal contract to the company, signaling to Amazon executives that he is so far not interested in fulfilling his pledge to use the government’s purchasing power to be “the most pro-union president.” [Emphasis added]
As part of his campaign promises, Biden laid out a plan to prevent corporations like Amazon from receiving lucrative federal contracts after having been accused of union-busting tactics.
He promised to “ensure federal dollars do not flow to employers who engage in union-busting activities, participate in wage theft, or violate labor law.”
Biden’s campaign pledge states:
Biden will institute a multi-year federal debarment for all employers who illegally oppose unions, building on debarment efforts pursued in the Obama-Biden administration. [Emphasis added]
[Biden] will ensure federal contracts only go to employers who sign neutrality agreements committing not to run anti-union campaigns. He also will only award contracts to employers who support their workers, including those who pay a $15 per hour minimum wage and family sustaining benefits. The tax dollars of hard-working families should not be used to damage the standard of living of those same families. [Emphasis added]
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) spoke at a union rally for the warehouse workers late last month but has been silent on Biden’s billion dollar contract for Amazon.
Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) lobbied Biden to not reward Amazon with a federal contract, stating that the corporation has “time and time again” deployed union-busting tactics to stop warehouse workers from organizing.
“Mr. President: It is abundantly clear that time and time again Amazon has engaged in illegal anti-union activity,” Sanders wrote. “Amazon may be a large and profitable corporation, it may be owned by one of the wealthiest people in America, but it cannot be allowed to continue to violate the law and the rights of its employees. The time has come to tell Amazon that if it wants another federal contract it must obey the law.”
Amazon has notoriously skated by for years without paying federal income taxes. In 2020, the corporation paid federal income taxes for the first time since 2016. The amount paid by Amazon was just $162 million last year, a fraction of its 2019 $13.9 billion pre-tax reported income. For context, Amazon paid in federal income taxes just 1.2% of its pre-tax reported income last year.
Likewise, recent tax filings made public show Bezos paid an average federal income tax rate of less than 24 percent. In many cases, Bezos paid far less in taxes than millionaires earning a sixth of his income.