In less than a month, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has reportedly added $5 billion to his wealth, taking his net worth to $141.9 billion. According to media reports, he is now $49 billion richer than Microsoft's Bill Gates, who came in second on the latest Forbes World's Billionaires list.
But this news of his success comes against the backdrop of disgruntlement among his employees. According to the Daily Mail, last week over 400 employees of the Washington Post signed an open letter to Bezos demanding fair wages and better working conditions. The world's richest man had bought the newspaper for $250 million in 2013.
The petition, which was shared on Twitter by the Post Guild last Thursday, claimed that the newspaper had "doubled the number of digital subscriptions and increased its online traffic by more than half; its advertising team has met or exceeded all its targets" in the past year. But the employees said they had not received their fair share of this success. "All we are asking for is fairness for each and every employee who contributed to this company's success: fair wages; fair benefits for retirement, family leave and health care; and a fair amount of job security," said the petition.
It also cited some hard evidence to back up the employees demands. "Offering $10 a week in pay increases - or about 0.6 percent of the median salary and less than half the current rate of inflation - is unfair and even shocking from someone who believes democracy dies in darkness," it read, adding, "Refusing to improve retirement benefits is unfair, particularly since you froze the traditional pension. The current retirement plans, including a 1 percent match on our 401(k), suggest that you place little value in your employees' future financial security."
The letter concluded saying, "Please show the world that you not only can lead the way in creating wealth, but that you also know how to share it with the people who helped you create it."
The employees at Amazon are reportedly not any happier. Last year, the median salary of the 566,000 employees at the e-commerce giant was reportedly $28,446. According to Payscale.com, the average salary at arch rival Wal-Mart Stores Inc is $52000 per year. The Daily Mail had previously reported that Amazon 'dehumanised' its staff to deliver products to customers, adding that workers at its distribution centres faced disciplinary action if they took too long to track down items ordered by online shoppers, or even if they took long bathroom breaks. Citing the staff, the report had painted a picture of a stressful working environment, rife with mistrust and suspicion. In late 2017, another Sunday Mirror undercover investigation had revealed similar dismal working conditions at Amazon's warehouse in Essex.
Actually, Bezos has been battling criticism about workplace conditions in Amazon since 2015, when a New York Times had claimed that it was "conducting an experiment in how far it can push white-collar workers to get them to achieve its ever-expanding ambitions".
Bezos had reportedly reacted to this article by sending an internal memo to his employees where he said "The article doesn't describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day. But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR. You can also email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Even if it's rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero."
It will be interesting to see how he reacts to the Washington Post petition.