When Amazon announced last week it would pause construction in downtown Seattle until the council votes on the tax, local electeds worried about the effect on jobs. The Seattle Times Editorial Board echoed that concern in opposing the tax Friday, picking up a Chamber of Commerce phrase in labeling it a “tax on jobs.”
But not everyone is so enamored with all those jobs.
While Amazon tech workers in Seattle make an average of $110,000 a year, the company recently released data showing its median employee makes less than $30,000 a year. Here in Washington, the tech company ranks 11th in the state for the number of its employees on Medicaid (also known as Apple Health), according to a November 2017 report from the Washington State Health Care Authority. The company ranked behind top offenders like Walmart and McDonalds but higher on the list than Dollar Tree, Target, Burger King, and Wendy's. Starbucks, another regional giant, ranks below Amazon but still in the top 15. (The report warns of some limits to the data, which is voluntarily self-reported by people enrolling in healthcare programs.)
On the day Amazon announced its construction pause, Seattle City Council member Teresa Mosqueda brought a copy of that list to a council committee meeting. “As we have a conversation about what companies—the largest companies—can afford to help pay for the housing crisis that we have,” Mosqueda said, “we should have a better sense of whether or not these corporations are also getting corporate welfare kickbacks.”
Mosqueda, who previously worked for the Children's Alliance on implementation of Apple Health for kids, said she expects to see companies like Walmart and McDonalds near the top of the list, but called out Kroger, Amazon, Target, and Starbucks.
“These are corporations that are doing very well within our region and yet have individuals that are on Medicaid,” Mosqueda said. “As we think about who is potentially going to benefit from the ability to have housing, it's not exactly asking a lot to think about how we can rightside up this upside down system that we have.”
Amazon says it has “more than 40,000” employees in Seattle. It also operates warehouses and fulfillment facilities, where the jobs pay less, in Sumner, Kent, and DuPont. According to a February 2017 analysis by GeekWire, Amazon doubled its fulfillment centers nationwide from 2015 to 2016 and operates three fulfillment centers in Washington. That’s compared to a higher concentration of fulfillment centers in other states, like Pennsylvania and California, which each have 12. The company also operates two sortation and delivery centers in Washington, according to GeekWire.
Last month, The Intercept and The New Food Economy reported on Amazon employees' use of food assistance known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. In Arizona, one in three Amazon employees depends on SNAP, according to the report. Here in Washington, Amazon employees are the 17th most reliant on SNAP, according to the report.