Amazon is facing a minor backlash over the company asking for public donations to a relief fund it created for its contract and seasonal workers. While the optics of this request can certainly look bad, they don’t tell the whole story.
The world’s largest e-commerce company in early March announced the Amazon Relief Fund, which will offer grants of $400 to $5,000 to independent delivery companies, gig workers in its Amazon Flex program and seasonal employees. It kicked in $25 million of its own money to start the fund. So far, so good, right?
Initially, the company mentioned on the relief fund website that the fund relied on both individual donations and Amazon’s money. It also included a donate button. Amazon didn’t publicly request donations except on this website, which Popular Information writer Judd Legum picked up on. The subsequent coverage sparked a backlash against the retail giant, which is worth nearly $1 trillion.
Amazon has since changed the language on the site to clarify that public donations aren’t being requested. The company says, due to the fund’s structure, it’s required to allow for individual donations. That donate button is still there, but now with more clarification that Amazon doesn’t expect you to give. Fact-checking site Snopes has some good reporting on this issue, so please check it out.
“We are not and have not asked for donations and the Amazon Relief Fund has been funded by Amazon with an initial donation of $25 million,” an Amazon spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “The structure to operate a fund like this, which hundreds of companies do through the same third-party, requires the program to be open to public contributions but we are not soliciting those contributions in any way.”
Does this all mean Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, is asking the public to support his contract workers, as some headlines suggested? Technically yes, but that’s not really what’s happening here.
If you do want to donate directly to Amazon employees impacted by the coronavirus, Amazonians United New York City, a grassroots group of Amazon warehouse employees, has started a GoFundMe page to support these folks. That fund is being run separately from the company.