For 14 months, internet retail giant Amazon baited North American cities with a reality-show-style contest.
The winner was promised 50,000 employees and the distinction of serving as the company’s second headquarters.
In the ensuing months, New Yorkers have pushed back against the fact that they would be financing corporate welfare for the richest man in the world‘s helipad and offices in an area previously slated for almost 1,500 public housing units for needy families.
While Amazon claimed it will receive $2.1 billion in total taxpayer “incentives” from Long Island City and Crystal City combined, a Good Jobs First analysis reveals the actual cost to taxpayers: at least $4.6 billion–likely more.
Well, public outcry has paid off.
Amazon has canceled plans for a New York headquarters.
The company said in a statement:
“After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens. For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term.”
“We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion—we love New York, its incomparable dynamism, people, and culture—and particularly the community of Long Island City, where we have gotten to know so many optimistic, forward-leaning community leaders, small business owners, and residents.”
At the time Amazon announced its intentions, then-Rep. elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted:
“Displacement is not community development. Investing in luxury condos is not the same thing as investing in people and families. Shuffling working class people out of a community does not improve their quality of life…We need to focus on good healthcare, living wages, affordable rent. Corporations that offer none of those things should be met w/ skepticism. It’s possible to establish economic partnerships w/ real opportunities for working families, instead of a race-to-the-bottom competition.”
Responding to Amazon’s withdrawal, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, who represents the Long Island neighborhood Amazon was intending to build, tweeted:
“Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world.”
NY State Sen. Michael Gianaris, who also represents the area, and was opposed to Amazon’s location all along, told the New York Times:
“Amazon insists on getting its way or takes its ball and leaves. The only thing that happened here is that a community that was going to be profoundly affected by their presence started asking questions.”
In September, Vt. Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced the “Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies (BEZOS) Act,” intending to require employers with at least 500 employees to reimburse the government for the food stamps, public housing, Medicaid, and other federal assistance their workers receive.
Sanders’ office explained in a press release when the senator announced his proposed legislation:
“If an Amazon worker receives $300 in food stamps, Amazon would be taxed $300.”
In a statement, Sen. Sanders added:
“While Mr. Bezos is worth $155 billion and while his wealth has increased $260 million every single day this year, he continues to pay many Amazon employees wages that are so low that they are forced to depend on taxpayer-funded programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing just to get by.
“While Mr. Bezos is the most egregious example, the Walton family of Walmart and many other billionaire-owned large and profitable companies also enrich themselves off taxpayer assistance while paying their workers poverty-level wages.”
Shortly after Sanders introduced the Stop BEZOS Act, Amazon announced it will agree to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for U.S. employees and lobby Washington to raise the $7.25 federal minimum wage.
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