The coronavirus pandemic has already cost over three million lives worldwide, and its economic cost cannot even begin to be measured.
But that cost won’t fall on all of us equally. Some will actually come out of this unprecedented crisis even better off than they were before.
Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, already the world’s richest man with personal wealth somewhere in the region of $145 billion, is enjoying a sudden surge in his fortunes as more of us are shopping from home than ever.
Bezos, 56, started Amazon in his garage in 1994 and still owns 11% of the company’s shares. In February those shares were trading at $1,689. Last week they were changing hands for well over $2,000.
Amazon has reported $75.5 billion in revenue for the first quarter of 2020.
Tim Bray, a well known senior engineer and Vice President at Amazon has “quit in dismay” because Amazon has been “firing whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of Covid-19.” In an open letter on his website, Bray, who has worked at the company for nearly six years, called the company “chickenshit” for firing and disparaging employees who have organized protests. He also said the firings are “designed to create a climate of fear.”
Amazon’s strategy throughout the coronavirus crisis has been to fire dissenters and disparage them both in the press and behind closed doors. There have been dozens of confirmed coronavirus cases at warehouses around the country, and workers have repeatedly said the company isn’t doing enough to protect them. Last week, Amazon ended a program that allowed workers to take unlimited unpaid time off if they fear getting sick from the coronavirus. Last Friday, Amazon workers together with Target, FedEx, Instacart, and Whole Foods workers, went on strike to protest their working conditions.
In statements to Motherboard, Amazon has said its own protesting workers are “spreading misinformation and making false claims about Amazon,” and that it “objects to the irresponsible actions of labor groups.” Last month, Amazon fired Chris Smalls, an Amazon worker in New York City. In a meeting, Amazon executives said that they believe Smalls is not “smart or articulate,” and that publicly they would focus on “laying out the case for why the organizer’s conduct was immoral, unacceptable, and arguably illegal,” according to leaked notes from that meeting obtained by VICE News.