Organizers of a protest Monday on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan, said more than 25 community organizations representing 200,000-plus New Yorkers, called on Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to stop rolling out the red carpet in New York for Amazon’s expansion.
The digital behemoth in September announced that it will open a second corporate headquarters in North America equal in size and stature to the existing one in Seattle. If the Seattle facility is the guide that Amazon founder and chief executive officer Jeff Bezos says it is, then HQ2, as it’s called, will have a $25.7 billion payroll and more than 50,000 employees, which would make Amazon the city’s largest private employer. The existing corporate campus consists of 33 buildings totaling 8.1 million square feet. Amazon’s capital investment for buildings and infrastructure: $3.7 billion.
Not surprisingly, cities from Minneapolis to Manhattan are courting Amazon and hoping to be chosen as HQ2’s site. Monday’s organizers cautioned restraint to politicians who might negotiate with the online giant.
New York Communities for Change, ALIGN, Make the Road New York, Coalition for Economic Justice, Good Jobs First, among others, told elected officials that retail giant Amazon shouldn’t receive any taxpayer-funded financial incentives simply for doing business in the city. Groups said they’ll call on city and state government to hold Amazon to higher standards for how it treats workers and communities as it seeks to expand its operations in the city. In 2014 two employees were killed in Amazon’s sprawling warehouses. There were two worker deaths last month at Amazon warehouses in Pennsylvania and Indiana.
“Across the country, Amazon has harmed workers, communities and small businesses, often destroying jobs and receiving massive taxpayer-funded subsidies and financial incentives that the company doesn’t need or deserve,” the coalition said. “De Blasio, Cuomo and elected officials throughout the state should be pushing Amazon to meet much higher standards for how it does business in New York.”
Speakers at the City Hall event, stressed that Amazon deserves aggressive scrutiny, not special treatment or praise, especially in New York, where the online retail giant may decide to open its second corporate headquarters.
Amazon’s footprint in New York has grown rapidly in recent years. The company has a large distribution center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and is planning a similar facility in Staten Island, along with a huge new office on the west side of Manhattan.
If Amazon opens its second corporate headquarters here, it will become one of the biggest employers in New York. Amazon has received at least $1 billion in state and local subsidies. Communities, workers, small businesses and governments could be hurt by Amazon’s expansion, the coalition said.
However, New York City business and political leaders are keen on winning Amazon HQ2, and have been wooing the digital player. There seems to be no shortage of locations that could accommodate the facility, from Industry City in Sunset Park, Brooklyn to Long Island City to Hudson Yards and Manhattan West.
In response to a request for comment about the protest, Amazon said it holds the top slot on both Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies list and the Harris Poll’s Corporate Reputation survey, and second place on Fortune’s World’s Most Admired Companies and LinkedIn’s U.S. Most Desirable Companies, among other accolades.
“As stated in the Request For Proposal (RFP) for Amazon HQ2, the 50,000 jobs that this project will create will have an average total compensation exceeding $100,000,” the Seattle-based e-commerce giant said.
Amazon also touted its community engagement, saying that in the last year, it has committed more than $30 million dollars to support for homeless families, STEM education, and job training programs in Seattle, and has committed nationally to helping students, especially those who are disadvantaged, reach their potential.
The company said it’s helping associates reach their goals with the Amazon Career Choice program, a benefit designed to expand employee career choices at Amazon or another industry. “We have more than 10,000 employees in 10 countries pursuing their aspirations through the Career Choice program, with plans to reach 20,000 participants by 2020,” the company said.