Over the last several months, Amazon has taken Oklahoma on a Diamondback of a roller coaster ride. First, they announced that OKC was on the scouting list for their new headquarters (spoiler alert: it won’t be here). That won’t happen for several reasons, probably because of our regressive state politics. The city’s infant infrastructure of public transit isn’t much of a selling point for a modern corporation either.
But they’ve thrown us a bone, one in the shape of a massive warehouse near the airport. From NewsOK:
Amazon.com released a statement late Friday acknowledging plans to build a fulfillment center in Oklahoma City near the Will Rogers World Airport.
Amazon Senior Manager of Economic Development Tom Florino recently presented to the Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust plans for the center, which he said would be 640,000 square feet and would employ 1,750 when completed…
The Oklahoma City Council voted recently to authorize staff to negotiate a job-creation incentives agreement with Amazon worth $1.7 million.
The proposal includes $1 million in public payments to Amazon for 53 managerial jobs associated with the fulfillment center as well as another $700,000 for road improvements.
This sounds really great on the surface. Jobs are good, and Amazon is a massive corporation which always seems enticing to have in your city.
But before we get too excited, let’s think about this for a minute. For one, the city is paying Amazon a million dollars just to set up shop. This is kinda like what happens when millionaires want a new sports arena built. They promise jobs and all that, but the whole thing is really ludicrous because it’s really just people who drive new sports cars asking for handouts from the rest of us in a 2003 Kia.
And while all these new jobs seem enticing, will they be good jobs? Amazon has a track record of dangling benefits and incentives in front of new employees, only to work them to the bone for practically pennies over minimum wage and under intense and awful work environments. The Atlantic reported earlier this year about the negative effect one of their warehouses had in California:
But as the experience of San Bernardino shows, Amazon can exacerbate the economic problems that city leaders had hoped it would solve. The share of people living in poverty in San Bernardino was at 28.1 percent in 2016, the most recent year for which census data is available, compared to 23.4 in 2011, the year before Amazon arrived. The median household income in 2016, at $38,456, is 4 percent lower than it was in 2011. This poverty near Amazon facilities is not just an inland California phenomenon—according to a report by the left-leaning group Policy Matters Ohio, one in 10 Amazon employees in Ohio are on food stamps.
A recent book by an investigative journalist in the UK exposed the grueling conditions in Amazon’s warehouses, which mentions employees forgoing bathroom breaks because they’re too scared of the companies rigorous management. According to a survey, more than half of Amazon’s employees report suffering from depression after starting with the company, and 80% would never apply with the company again.
Aside from all of the personal turmoil Amazon creates for its low-level employees, it leaves behind a lot of mess to clean up for the cities and states it inhabits. With many of the companies employees making such low wages, they must rely on local agencies for basic necessities like food relief. Salon reports:
A new study by Policy Matters Ohio showed that more than 700 Amazon workers receive food stamps in Ohio — yet, Amazon has reportedly received an estimated $123 million in tax breaks in Ohio. That means that American taxpayers are subsidizing Bezos’s fortune, as Amazon isn’t paying a living wage to many workers.
Jeff Bezos, founder, CEO and largest shareholder of Amazon, is worth well over $100 billion dollars. That’s $100,000,000,000 in case the extra zeros help put his wealth into context, which doesn’t really do anything since that’s an unfathomable number even to people like Harold Hamm. It’s such a disgusting amount of wealth, especially when he’s employing so many people living in squalor.
What do you think? Are we going to be better off with all the jobs that Amazon is bringing? Will this end up costing society in the long run?