Jeff Bezos gets rich as Amazon employees struggle

Danielle Limonchik

More stories from Danielle Limonchik


Graphic by Bradley Woodside.

With a personal fortune of $154 billion, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently surpassed Bill Gates as the richest man in the world. In comparison, the median salary of an Amazon employee is approximately $28,000. To put that into perspective, according to Time Magazine, it takes Bezos just under nine seconds to earn that. In comparison, approximately 10% of all Amazon employees are on food stamps, according to Business Insider. While these statistics in and of themselves are quite harrowing, the situation worsens for Amazon employees abroad.

Last year, undercover journalist Alan Selby exposed Orwellian working conditions in Amazon warehouses in the U.K. In order to meet impossible targets and package 300 items per hour, workers are subjected to timed bathroom breaks, surveillance cameras and screens reminding them of their “units per hour”.Reportedly, ambulances are called regularly due to employees collapsing on the job, in addition to falling asleep while standing.

For many, near instant shipping has become less of a luxury and more of an expectation. We get frustrated, even angry, when our packages take a little bit longer to arrive than expected, but it’s easy to forget that there are real people out there doing grueling labour in order to ensure that our Alexa speakers get delivered to us in 2-4 business days.

We know it’s ironic and unfair when the richest man in the world doesn’t pay his employees fairly, but aren’t we the ones who made him so wealthy in the first place? We, the consumers, vote with our dollars. If we’re not mindful about how we spend our hard earned cash, it goes straight into the pockets of CEOs and other high ranking company executives, while the average employee who toils for them doesn’t even see a fraction of their salaries.

Sadly, Amazon is no exception. Almost all, if not every major company you can think of mistreats its employees in similar or worse ways. It’s common knowledge that big companies such as Apple, Nike, and various clothing brands such as H&M, Zara and Urban Outfitters, amongst others, use sweatshops, child labor and all around terrible working conditions to cut corners and maximize profit. As long as we keep glorifying these CEOs and corporate higher-ups simply for being rich, we will never see an end to the mistreatment and exploitation of their workers. We must start holding them accountable for their actions. That’s the first step.

Anyone can tweet a hashtag or make a cute, colorful sign, but what really makes a difference is having the self control to spend your money a bit more wisely and ethically. After all, nothing will happen if you don’t buy the new iPhone XS, or if you don’t receive your package tomorrow.