Pramila Jayapal Wishes Jeff Bezos Well, Keeps Heat on Amazon Over Labor, Tax

Progressive Washington Representative Pramila Jayapal expressed well wishes for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos following his decision to step down from his post, but did not let up on her critiques of the company.

Bezos, one of the wealthiest people in the world, announced his transition to the position of Amazon executive chair on Tuesday. Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy is set to replace him.

"Though I have not often seen eye to eye with Mr. Bezos, I wish him all the best as he steps down as CEO and I know that he will continue to have enormous influence on the policies and future of Amazon and its workers," the Democratic congresswoman said Tuesday.

She added that Amazon's birth in her home city of Seattle is "a reminder of how we must do everything in our power to preserve that environment of market competition, fair wages and workers' rights that have defined our success as a city."

Jayapal continued by outlining her intention to ensure companies such as Amazon are "held to account for unacceptable treatment of workers including delivery drivers and warehouse employees; decisions to cut hazard pay and paid sick leave during a raging pandemic even as the top management and wealthiest shareholders get richer; and the desperate need to address racial justice and equity."

"I intend to continue my work to ensure that we have a tax system that demands that the largest corporations and wealthiest individuals pay their fair share in taxes, and [...] that we aggressively challenge dominant tech platforms such as Amazon and others and rein in anti-competitive behavior and monopolistic practices," she said.

Jayapal sits on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust. In October 2020, Democrats within the subcommittee found Amazon to have exhibited anti-competitive behavior, alleging the company prioritized the sales of its own products over those of other sellers. Amazon has denied the allegations.

The progressive praised Amazon for having "led the way in the business community on a few important decisions"—such as raising its minimum wage to $15 and halting police use of its facial recognition technology—but maintained "there is still enormous work to be done to build our region equitably, preserve competition and ensure that workers are treated with dignity and respect."

"I look forward to meeting with incoming CEO Andy Jassy and continuing to work with Mr. Bezos in his new role to ensure fairness and justice for my constituents and for our country," she said.

On Tuesday evening, Jayapal shared a CBS News report on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) finding Amazon has kept $62 million in tips meant for drivers. The congresswoman tweeted: "Pay your workers. How hard is that?"

Illinois Representative and fellow progressive Marie Newman reacted to Bezos' announcement by retweeting an image shared by Washington Post reporter Jay Greene, which depicts an anti-union sign inside a toilet stall in Amazon's Bessemer, Alabama warehouse.

"Hey @amazon — one of the first things your new CEO better do is flush down this anti-union propaganda," Newman tweeted. "Workers have every right to organize for decent wages, benefits and better working conditions."

On Wednesday morning, Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib retweeted a quip by the American Civil Liberties Union, which read: "In Jeff Bezos' defense, the working conditions at Amazon are allegedly terrible."

Bezos' announcement followed a profitable quarter for Amazon. In the fourth quarter of 2020, the company reported net sales increased 44 percent to $125.6 billion, compared to $87.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2019.

His decision also comes amid renewed controversy surrounding Amazon's long-criticized labor practices. The company came under fire due to the FTC's demand it reimburses drivers' withheld tips, as well as reports of aggressive efforts to discourage Bessemer warehouse workers from unionizing.

Bezos said his new position within Amazon will allow him to better focus on the Bezos Earth Fund, his aerospace company Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and his "other passions."

Rep. Pramila Jayapal speaks during a hearing
Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington, speaks during a House Judiciary Committee hearing December 12, 2019 in Washington, DC. Alex Edelman/Pool/Getty Images