There has been a surge in the personal wealth of Amazon CEO and entrepreneur, Jeff Bezos, by about $24 billion so far during the coronavirus pandemic which was about a 20 per cent growth in his fortunes over the last four months. His personal wealth is now believed to be about $138 billion.
With an ownership in Amazon.com of 11 per cent, Bezos has been judged the richest person in the world since 2017.
The coronavirus led surge in demand for online products has propelled Amazon’s business to levels that it typically sees during peak holiday seasons. With lockdowns in force in many regions of the United States and elsewhere and people being forced to stay indoors in order to slow down the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, demand for online products has increased considerably. There was a 5.3 per cent surge in Amazon’s share price as it reached a record high on Tuesday.
Even as the coronavirus pandemic started in the US, Bezos had sold out a large portion of his shares thereby saving himself from larger losses. He also then gained much from a three day period of rally at the stock market that was last seen in 1933. That rally helped the stocks of Amazon to make up most of the losses that it had incurred in March.
However the role of the largest e-commerce company of the world in handling of the coronavirus outbreak – particularly for the many thousand that are still working at the warehouses of the company, has been criticized amid the surge in the demand for online products. Severe strains on warehouse teams have been reported by workers. Many of the workers are in the direct line of fire of the coronavirus pandemic with high risks of getting infected as they work in the packaging and shipping activities of the company.
A number of the warehouses of the company across the world have reported workers getting infected by the virus. The first death of a warehouse worker of Amazon because of the virus infection was reported on Tuesday. The deceased the worked at the company’s Hawthorne, California, warehouse as an operations manager and passed away on 31 March.
Protesting against the lack of worker protections, strikes and walkouts have been organized by several workers. The company fired a manager assistant, Chris Smalls, employed at the at the JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island, New York, after he had led a group of workers on a walkout over the lack of safety against the pandemic.
Workers have demanded that the company should temporarily shut down the facility for cleaning and sanitation following a number of employees there testing positive for coronavirus.
According to leaked memos of the company as published by Vice News, many of the executives of the company have suggested that Smalls be branded as “not smart or articulate” and conduct a smear campaign against him response to the backlash over his firing.
“Without us working, what are you going to do,” asked Smalls in an op-Ed for the Guardian. “You’ll have no money. We have the power. We make money for you. Never forget that.”
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)