- Jeff Bezos thanked Amazon’s workers and customers for paying for his Blue Origin space flight.
- But some Amazon workers said they want better pay and working conditions, not a thank you.
- “He should just go to Jupiter and live his best life there,” one worker told Insider.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
After Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos flew into suborbital space for around three minutes on Tuesday, he thanked some of the people who helped send him there: Amazon’s employees and customers.
“I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer, because you guys paid for all of this,” Bezos said during a post-flight press conference. “Seriously, for every Amazon customer out there, and every Amazon employee, thank you from the bottom of my heart very much. It’s very appreciated.”
For many workers who heard Bezos’ comments, the feeling wasn’t exactly mutual.
Multiple Amazon employees told Insider there appeared to be little interest in the launch, and that they wished Bezos would have spent the money on virtually anything else, like paying Amazon workers better.
“I heard he was going to space but to be honest, I didn’t really care,” an employee at Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island, told Insider, adding: “Me and my coworkers were joking that he should just go to Jupiter and live his best life there.”
“People certainly weren’t rushing to the TVs to watch,” one Amazon warehouse employee in Indiana told Insider. “I guess it was just a big deal for Jeff. We didn’t get anything out of it. Twenty-minute flight to space on us basically since we do the work.”
Amazon and Blue Origin did not immediately respond to requests for comment on this story.
Most of Bezos’ wealth is tied up in roughly 51.7 million shares of Amazon stock he owns, shares that have risen to more than $3,549 apiece since the company’s IPO price of $18 in 1997. And Bezos previously said he liquidates around $1 billion worth of Amazon stock per year to fund Blue Origin’s operations, so those who have helped Amazon succeed literally did fund Bezos’ space ambitions.
But some workers said they’ve paid for the success of Amazon, and by extension Blue Origin, in other ways that they’re not too happy about.
“I guess he’s thanking us for putting the money in his pocket to do so by our hard work, sacrificing our bonuses and stock options to make it possible,” the Amazon employee in Indiana said. (Amazon’s hourly warehouse employees aren’t eligible for stock options or bonuses).
“I feel like he just said that because he had a guilty conscience, he knows he’s wrong for making money off treating workers like slaves,” the Staten Island employee said, referencing the grueling and potentially dangerous conditions some Amazon workers encounter.
As other critics of Bezos’ space flight – like Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – pointed out, American taxpayers have also subsidized Amazon and Blue Origin.
Amazon’s reliance on a massive network of contract delivery drivers allows it to avoid paying for their healthcare, workers’ compensation, and unemployment insurance, and 4,000 of its workers in just nine states rely on food stamps, passing those costs off to taxpayers and other employers whose payments into the social safety net help Amazon workers that have fallen through the cracks.
Amazon workers who spoke to Insider also said they felt Bezos should have spent more of his immense wealth addressing these and other issues instead of pursuing his space ambitions.
“I can think of a lot of other things he could do with all that money he spent on it, better wages for starters, the homeless, the poor, mental health,” another current Amazon fulfilment center employee told Insider.
“I think it’s selfish of him to be so self-consumed to send himself into space when there are so many homeless and hungry people in the world. He could end homelessness and hunger for everybody in the world and he chooses not to because he’s selfish,” said Vickie Shannon Allen, a former Amazon employee who became homeless after a workplace injury and a long battle with Amazon over medical expenses.