"The Amazons of Seattle are responsible": A perspective on the big biz tax from an Amazon worker

As a corporate employee at Amazon, this big business tax hasn’t been on my radar at work at all. Nobody on my team, or any managers, have said, “If this tax goes through, we’re going to have to make some serious budget changes.” Nobody on my team is thinking this tax will actually affect our budget.

And as a Seattleite, I have mixed feelings about Amazon. I don’t think it’s all bad for the city — employees like me are paid a good salary and benefits, and I don’t think Amazon is directly responsible for our housing affordability crisis. But they’re one of the largest sources of growth in our city, and that growth has changed things a lot.

peter quote.png

When I moved to Seattle in 2010, I had a decent studio in the U District for $635/month. When I moved out in 2014, they wanted $1200 for the same studio. If you don’t have a corporate job and make a ton of money, you’re rooming with a ton of people and dealing with scummy landlords.

Indirectly, the Amazons of Seattle are responsible. Giving people huge salaries and bonuses to move here jacks up the price of rent, and the cost of living here has gotten out of control. If they don’t find a way to solve the housing crisis they’ve generated by coming here, it’s going to affect lower-income people the most. Those low-wage workers don’t get the benefits of Amazon being located here. Amazon is saving a lot of money by setting up here instead of the Bay or New York, and they should be giving something back to the city of Seattle.

I’ve worked for Amazon as a corporate employee for about six months. As a corporate employee, I don’t have much to complain about — I’m getting a great salary and benefits. But before I got this job, I spent two years trying to get by as a gig worker, working for apps like Uber and Lyft and running deliveries out of Amazon warehouses as an Amazon Flex driver.

Back when I was working as a Flex driver, I was moving from place to place trying to find a way to afford to live. For about a year, I was squatting in a commercial office space in SoDo. Then I moved up to Camano Island and rented a room in a house up there. And right before I got my corporate job at Amazon, I squatted in my mom’s retirement community in Skagit Valley for about four months. Flex isn’t the worst gig to have, but you definitely can’t live in Seattle city limits on a Flex driver’s salary, unless maybe you worked about 80 hours a week. You could maybe live in a car and make enough money to eat and wash your clothes, but you’re not going to rent an apartment on that income.

The housing situation is out of control. It’s just too expensive. There aren’t enough places to live. There are no regulations, so developers put up luxury condos — there’s no incentive to put up affordable housing. Even apartments that used to be considered moderate- or low-income are charging an arm and a leg.

The reaction I’ve seen to this tax from corporations like Amazon is a little bewildering. Maybe they think they’re already doing enough, but it’s clear things are still out of control. There’s no guarantee all the problems we’re facing as a city are going to disappear, but something has to happen. Somebody has to start investing in infrastructure one way or the other. It’s clearly not going to break the bank for companies like Amazon.

— Pete, Amazon employee & former Amazon Flex driver

Big biz tax updates: Breakfast octopus edition

Some key items to consider as Working Washington and the rest of the Bring Seattle Home campaign reach out to voters in support of Seattle’s Progressive Business Tax:

  • We continue to receive troubling reports about signature gatherers misleading voters about Seattle’s big business tax and engaging in unsavory tactics. Here’s one report from the Rainier QFC. (We also have a recording from a Queen Anne Safeway.)
  • Starbucks announced they are giving Howard Schultz a $1.9 million retirement bonus, in addition to many many other benefits. By comparison, the PSBJ estimated Starbucks would pay $1.1 million a year towards affordable housing under Seattle’s big business tax law, which they claim is so much money to them it will somehow affect jobs. (Note too that estimate was based on the initially proposed $500 figure.)
  • Qumulo, a Seattle tech company, announced this week they have raised $93 million, and plan tohire “aggressively” in Seattle. That single investment for that single company is just about double what Seattle’s big business tax will raise raise each year. From about 600 large companies. For affordable housing & services for homelessness people.
  • Notably, the CEO of Qumulo last month signed a letter opposing the business tax which peddled the trickle-down argument that the tax would be somehow damaging. Apparently their economic analysis is different when they’re doing deals instead of playing politics.

A quote from Jeff Bezos might put it all into perspective. Bezos once explained to someone why he purchased their company in this way: You’re the octopus that I’m having for breakfast. When I look at the menu, you’re the thing I don’t understand, the thing I’ve never had. I must have the breakfast octopus.”

What if we're all the breakfast octopus now?

Seattle is not for sale.

Some of the the largest corporations and richest humans in the world are working with fringe groups to advance a trickle-down anti-tax agenda. Decline to sign on to their agenda and get more info about their campaign to mislead voters to try and get themselves yet another tax cut.

Read More