Economy

Keith Ellison: Desperate Bids for New Amazon HQ Prove Something 'Deeply Wrong' With America

The Democratic congressman tweeted his disgust with states willing to give billions of dollars in tax breaks to Amazon.

Photo Credit: jurvetson / Flickr

Critics of Amazon's "race to the bottom" as it searches for a home for its second headquarters said on Thursday that the company's newly released shortlist of 20 cities highlights a crisis in the U.S. economy—one exemplified by the huge incentives offered to Amazon in the bidding war among potential hosts.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) was among those slamming Amazon and the state and local governments willing to give billions of dollars in tax breaks to the extremely wealthy multinational company.

In addition to the incentives mentioned by Ellison, Boston offered $75 million to provide affordable housing to Amazon employees, while Maryland's offer exceeded $5 billion.

Some noted that Amazon's top 20 contenders—also including New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Raleigh, N.C.—are fairly prosperous cities, with the company leaving out areas that could benefit from an influx of jobs and economic activity.

After Amazon announced its search in September, promising to bring 50,000 jobs to the city it chose for its $5 billion headquarters, groups including Jobs With Justice and the Working Families Party released their own set of demands for the company.

As Common Dreams reported, the groups asked the company to "reserve a substantial number of construction jobs for local residents, especially underrepresented people of color and women," protect the right to form unions, pay living wages, and—in light of reports of unsafe conditions at Amazon warehouses—"allow independent, third party organizations to conduct health and safety trainings."

But as Lina Khan of the Open Markets Institute noted last month on Ellison's podcast, We the Podcast, Amazon's meteoric rise has been due largely to unfair business practices—leaving critics skeptical of the idea that Amazon's arrival in one of the 20 finalist cities will actually benefit those who call it home.

"In many instances, Amazon has gotten where it is because it has undertaken business practices and forms of conduct that previously used to be illegal," Khan said.

 

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Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.