A decade ago, the US tech giants — Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook — were seen as the very symbols of human progress. Now, the companies — especially Amazon — are seen as the very symbols of inequality, tyranny, and exploitation.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and CEO, is not only the richest man in the world but in modern history, with an estimated worth of $110 billion. Meanwhile, Bezos’s warehouse workers toil in horrendous conditions for poverty wages, despite the much-publicized pay raise that some received last year. In March, the Daily Beast reported that “between October 2013 and October 2018, emergency workers were summoned to Amazon warehouses at least 189 times for suicide attempts, suicidal thoughts, and other mental-health episodes.” It’s not a stretch to compare Bezos’s ill-gotten wealth with that of Gilded Age robber barons like John D. Rockefeller.
Fortunately, after years of unending praise — they were going to save the world, remember? — Bezos’s company is finally getting some pushback. Media coverage has largely moved away from the fawning adulation of a decade ago. John Oliver’s recent examination of the company’s culture and working conditions was so stinging that it struck a nerve at Amazon HQ.