Long seen as a symbol of consolidation of corporate power, Bezos will now ostensibly take a back seat – though he’s expected to continue wielding much of that power and Amazon continues its reign as eminent tech behemoth.
Amazon announced Tuesday that Jeff Bezos will leave his role as CEO of the company, shifting to the executive chair role. He is expected to remain a powerful figure in business and politics and has said that he will shift his focus on philanthropic ventures as well as his role as owner of the Washington Post.
The change in roles, one of the most significant shake-ups in the history of the company, comes amidst continued controversy over threats and surveillance of Amazon workers that want to unionize, anti-trust cases, rampant tax-avoidance, and huge increases in profits during a pandemic, seen by many as what amounts to profiteering.
Bezos, one of the world’s richest men, has increased his personal wealth by a staggering $70bn – up to an estimated $185bn – during the course of the coronavirus pandemic. Amazon has long profited from the slow demise of in-person retail, a trend accelerated by coronavirus measures.
In a letter to Amazon employees rich with excessive self-praise, Bezos wrote “we’re firing on all cylinders, just as the world needs us to.”
The letter beams about the company’s bucking the trend with a $15 an hour company-wide minimum wage. Jeff Bezos makes more in one second than an Amazon warehouse employee makes in a month at that wage. Warehouse workers do not receive paid sick leave and Amazon systematically stole tips from their Flex delivery drivers in a scandal that later forced the company to pay a settlement.
Amazon warehouse workers in the US and several European countries have made repeated attempts to unionize. Amazon has routinely fired employees that go on strike or raise concerns about working conditions. One of the most recent attempts at creating a warehouse workers union was headed by employees in Alabama that are set to cast their votes on unionization soon, though Amazon has been blocking the vote with several legal and technical obstacles.