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Jeff Bezos draws rebuke for thanking Amazon workers and customers for 'paying' for space flight

Jeff Bezos
Posted at 2:50 PM, Jul 21, 2021

NEW YORK — The world's richest man wanted to say thanks to the people who made his brief trip into space Tuesday possible. But for some, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' expression of gratitude went over like a lead rocket.

Bezos built Amazon into a shopping and entertainment behemoth but has faced increasing activism within his own workforce and stepped up pressure from critics to improve working conditions.

After his trip to space, he thanked Amazon employees and customers for their support.

"I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you all paid for this," Bezos said at a press conference.

The comments attracted criticism from several current and former politicians.

"Yes, Amazon workers did pay for this - with lower wages, union busting, a frenzied and inhumane workplace, and delivery drivers not having health insurance during a pandemic," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, tweeted. "And Amazon customers are paying for it with Amazon abusing their market power to hurt small business."

"Amazon workers don't need Bezos to thank them. They need him to stop union busting — and pay them what they deserve," said Robert Reich, the former secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton.

Critics countered that he should show his thanks by supporting unionization efforts at Amazon's warehouses and by paying more taxes.

"Jeff Bezos forgot to thank all the hardworking Americans who actually paid taxes to keep this country running while he and Amazon paid nothing," Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tweeted.

Amazon has long faced accusations from former employees and watchdogs that its warehouse workers are underpaid and overworked. The company also fought against the unionization of the workforce at a warehouse in Alabama earlier this year, a vote that ultimately failed.

Critics have argued that Bezos could better spend his fortune solving large-scale, real-world problems on Earth.

In an interview with CNN on Monday, Bezos conceded that those critics were "largely right" but added that space travel and fixing the world's problems were not exclusive ventures.

"We have to do both," he told CNN. "You know, we have lots of problems here and now on Earth, and we need to work on those, and we always need to look to the future. We've always done that as a species, as a civilization. We have to do both."

Earlier in Tuesday's press conference, Bezos added that trips to space would allow others to appreciate the world better, particularly the atmosphere.

"As we move about the planet, we're damaging it," Bezos said. "It's another thing to see with your own eyes how fragile it really is."