Jeff Bezos and Amazon’s Prison System

When a warehouse sounds like a jailhouse, when workers have less time to speak than the time a warden reserves for a prisoner to speak his last words, when a warehouse fires more workers than a state executes prisoners via firing squad, when a new warehouse looks like a prison—and prisons look like a state’s oldest houses of learning—when working at Amazon is like doing time at Attica, the problem is not the result of coddling prisoners but of celebrating a CEO who treats his workers like prisoners. When Amazon treats freedom of speech as a form of hate speech, when it says it will not build where some people—perhaps even one person—hates how the company behaves, the villain is not a citizen but a corporation with no respect for the rights of all citizens. When we condemn New Yorkers for their criticism of Amazon, we destroy the Bill of Rights by drowning it in Jeff Bezos’s river of creative destruction.

Read Amazon’s statement about its decision to not build its second headquarters in Long Island City, Queens. The company said: “. . . a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City.”

That Amazon does not say how many politicians oppose its presence, that it does not say why these politicians are opponents, that it does not name these politicians—all of these things say that Amazon opposes not what these politicians did but what they said; that Amazon opposes opposition; that it elects to fire workers who oppose any of the company’s policies; that it shall be company policy to deny work to communities whose elected officials do not put Amazon’s interests first.

None of which is to say Amazon’s opponents are right. But if Amazon wants to eliminate opposition, it should relocate to a country where opposition is a crime. Then it can have prisoners work for no pay, so Jeff Bezos can tout how little consumers pay to shop on Amazon.

Photo credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

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