The Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, added more than $70bn to his net worth during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, which is now nearly $185bn. Amazon’s sales have soared. Profits and stockholder shares have risen through 2020 by billions of dollars, but Amazon has only provided a fraction of those extra earnings in hazard pay and bonuses to workers. Amazon ended hazard pay in June 2020, and instead have provided sporadic one-time bonuses to workers during the pandemic. On average, Amazon workers have seen a $0.99-an-hour pay bump during the pandemic, compared with Bezos’s hourly wealth increase of $11.7m.
Workers at Amazon and Amazon-owned grocery chain Whole Foods have protested against unsafe working conditions and the pressures to keep up with demand. Several workers who participated in or led protests at Amazon over working conditions have alleged they were fired in retaliation and Amazon is fighting federal complaints alleging at least two of the firings violated US labor laws.
“What they considered hazard pay was just for show,” said an Amazon warehouse employee in Baltimore, Maryland who requested to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. “We couldn’t see a difference unless we were willing to work almost 60 hours a week. Several of us had no choice because we’re the breadwinners of our family. It’s infuriating that we live in fear every day because of minimal efforts to protect us, while executives take in tons of money while sitting safely at home.”
Jessica Oneto, a Whole Foods employee for four years in Redwood City, California, said, “They gave us hazard pay for maybe a couple months. It was only $2 and they literally took it away as the pandemic got worse. One of the biggest companies couldn’t afford to keep it up?”