EDITORIAL

Amazon extortion!

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos at the opening of the Amazon Spheres, giant geodesic domes making up part of the company's Seattle headquarters. PHOTO: Ted S. Warren / AP
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AMAZON CEO JEFF BEZOS, the world’s richest man, refuses to pay the social cost of doing business.

In Seattle, its headquarters, Amazon’s explosive growth has sent rent prices and property taxes into the stratosphere. With affordable housing in severely short supply, homelessness is soaring. To fund solutions, City Council members proposed a small per-employee “head tax” affecting businesses grossing over $20 million.

Miffed at the idea of paying a mere 0.26 percent of company profits, Bezos halted construction on a new building to blackmail the council into submission. Amazon lined up union officials and the building’s idled ironworkers to besiege City Hall, especially targeting socialist councilmember Kshama Sawant.

The bullying was effective. The mayor and some council-members cut a deal with Amazon halving the amount of the tax and lasting only five years. Sawant and other councilmembers opposed the reduction. But, when it became clear the original plan could not pass, they voted for the compromise.

However slight the victory, head-tax advocates put a small dent in Washington state’s tax system, the most regressive in the country. Big business backers intend to try to repeal the tax through a popular referendum, so this saga is not yet over. Defend the win and fight for more!

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