by Nate Jackson
We know that Amazon wants to expand its influence. It is no longer content with mistreating warehouse workers or dodging its tax responsibilities, now it wants to create laws directly or at least throw money at an organization that does so.
Amazon supports a shadowy corporate front group called the American Legislative Exchange Council simply known as ALEC. It is an organization that writes “model legislation” for our elected officials while wining and dining them at expensive “educational” vacations at three annual conferences a year.
Amazon started supporting ALEC last year and has already proven a valuable member. According to The Center for Media and Democracy, Amazon’s director of US State Public Policy, Braden Cox, spoke at a workshop hosted by ALEC around E-Commerce and E-Taxes. Interesting side note, the workshop was primarily an instruction manual on how Amazon could outmaneuver its main Goliath sized rival Walmart by manipulating the tax codes for its own benefit. They don’t want the special tax breaks for which they lobby to go to just any old corporation after all.
ALEC claims that it is a group of public and private institutions, but it really gets most of its money from big corporations that read as a who’s who of corporate tax dodgers and influence peddlers: Amazon, FedEx, Walmart, Bank of America, and Exxon Mobil amongst others. The companies invest in ALEC and they get our elected officials to shop legislation that balloons corporate profits at the expense of not only democracy, but often worker rights. ALEC has written hundreds of bills that put the needs of their corporate sponsors ahead of the needs of workers and the spirit of a democracy that is supposed to be “of the people.” ALEC has pushed legislation such as the “Living Wage Mandate Preemption Act.” This gift to big corporations tried to stop cities and state government from requiring living wages as part of a contractor negotiation. In essence they wanted to control government in its hiring practices to benefit big corporations at the expense of decent wages for workers.
ALEC has also pushed for legislation to weaken collective bargaining and deny workers from trying to better their work conditions. The recent rounds of anti-union bills introduced in Wisconsin and around the country can be traced to ALEC as it tries to weaken the workers' efforts to protect themselves from predatory employers.
Corporations should not be writing laws and the fact that Amazon supports an organization created to circumvent our democratic process is another red flag for the giant online retailer.
Instead of investing in an organization that gives Cliff’s Notes to lawmakers, Amazon should be investing in its workers, paying it fair share of taxes and ensuring that every job they create is a good job.