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Jeff Bezos, chairman and founder of and owner of the Washington Post, addresses the Economic Club of New York, at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, October 27, 2016 in New York City. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

How Can World's Richest Man Jeff Bezos Give Back? Staffers at the Washington Post Think Decent Wages and Benefits Would Be Good Start

"All we are asking for is fairness for each and every employee who contributed to this company's success: fair wages; fair benefits for retirement, family leave and healthcare; and a fair amount of job security."

Jake Johnson

Amazon CEO, Washington Post owner, and world's richest man Jeff Bezos is notorious for raking in enormous profits on the back of his overstrained and dramatically undercompensated workforce—all the while doing everything he can to avoid paying taxes.

In an open letter to Bezos on Thursday, around 400 unionized Washington Post staffers called out their boss's "unfair and even shocking" refusal to pay the newspaper's employees a decent wage, a practice that Bezos has institutionalized at Amazon warehouses throughout the U.S. and around the world.

"All we are asking for is fairness for each and every employee who contributed to this company's success: fair wages; fair benefits for retirement, family leave and healthcare; and a fair amount of job security," wrote the Post employees, who are in the middle of heated union contract negotiations with Bezos.

The open letter comes just days after the Bezos-led Amazon successfully pressured Seattle lawmakers to scrap a modest corporate tax aimed at addressing the city's worsening homelessness crisis.

Just as Bezos has worked tirelessly to avoid paying even relatively small taxes that would address an important and growing problem, the ultra-billionaire has also proven to be quite the "cheapskate" when it comes to paying his employees fair wages.

The Post staffers listed Bezos' most egregious offers in the ongoing contract talks:

  • Offering $10 a week in pay increases—or about 0.6 percent of the median salary and less than half the current rate of inflation—is unfair and even shocking from someone who believes democracy dies in darkness.
  • Refusing to improve retirement benefits is unfair, particularly since you froze the traditional pension.
  • The current retirement plans, including a one percent match on our 401(k), suggest that you place little value in your employees' future financial security.
  • Pushing for the right to indiscriminately lay off anyone is unfair—and a recipe for future discrimination against older employees and minorities.
  • Further cutting severance for people who face layoffs or whose job has been outsourced is unfair, particularly since management has already won the right to drastically cut severance for people who are let go for cause.
  • Demanding that laid-off employees waive their legal rights to receive severance payments is an extreme demand and an ominous one—particularly in light of the Post's mixed record on fair treatment for women, racial minorities and older employees.

According to Fredrick Kunkle, metro reporter for the Post and co-chair of the paper's bargaining unit, Bezos has displayed a "disturbing" unwillingness to budge on any of these issues while continuing to plow ahead with awful proposals to cut back on benefits and pay increases.

"We are toward the end of settling this contract, and it's not going to be a great contract," Kunkle told Splinter in an interview on Thursday. "We know that. We've basically spent a year fighting off bad things."

"You could start by not steamrolling the homeless in Seattle, then move on to giving warehouse employees a living wage and full employment benefits and health insurance."
—Winnie Wong, People for Bernie

The open letter and corresponding social media campaign by Post staffers went live just hours after Bezos fired off a rare tweet thanking his 538,000 followers for offering suggestions on how he can use his vast wealth to give back to the world.

While Bezos indicated that he is planning to focus philanthropic ambitions on two unspecified "areas," social media users offered a few last-minute suggestions for the ultra-billionaire to consider.

"You could start by not steamrolling the homeless in Seattle, then move on to giving [Amazon] warehouse employees a living wage and full employment benefits and health insurance," Winnie Wong of People for Bernie wrote.

A few others chimed in:

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