News Release

Bezos: Anti-Union, Privatizing Education?

MIKE ELK, mike at inthesetimes.com, @MikeElk
Elk is a labor reporter for In These Times magazine. He recently wrote the article, “Obama’s Praise for Companies Like Amazon Is Nothing New,” which states: “Worker advocates claim that the low-pay temp jobs at the [Amazon] Chattanooga warehouse contribute to a disturbing trend of middle-class erosion. As Dave Jamieson of the Huffington Post reported earlier this week, Amazon employs a temporary staffing agency at the warehouse, Integrity Staffing Solutions, that advertises seasonal jobs at the warehouse with a starting pay of $11.50 an hour, or about $24,000 a year (significantly less than the estimated living wage for a dual-earner family of four in Chattanooga, which is $12.54 an hour).”

DIANE RAVITCH, gardendr at gmail.com, @DianeRavitch
Ravitch is an award-winning leader in education and the author of ten books, including The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. She is research professor of education at New York University and served as Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to the Secretary of Education from 1991-1993 under the George H. W. Bush administration. She wrote a blog post yesterday titled, “Jeff Bezos: Another Billionaire for Privatization of Public Education.”

Wrote Ravitch: “Last fall, Bill Gates collected $10 million from his friends to push through approval of a referendum to permit privately managed charter schools in Washington state, which voters had turned down three times previously. Among the friends of Bill Gates who helped make charters possible was the Bezos family, the parents of Jeff Bezos.

“Jeff Bezos is the founder of Amazon.com. He is a billionaire many times over, one of the richest men on the planet.

“[On Monday] he bought the Washington Post.

“An article in the Washington Post [Tuesday] describes his interest in education. It says:

“‘Like Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham, Bezos has shown support for efforts to change education policy, including the creation and expansion of public charter schools.

“‘The Bezos Family Foundation — whose board includes Bezos, his parents and other family members — gave more than $11 million in 2011 to an array of national organizations such as Teach for America, Stand for Children and the KIPP Foundation, according to tax filings. The foundation also gave grants to scores of individual schools around the country as well as several charter school chains, including Uncommon Schools, which operates schools in New York and Massachusetts.

“‘Bezos’s parents, Mike and Jackie, were active in a fierce battle last year to allow the creation of public charter schools in Washington state. Washington had been one of a handful of states that did not permit charters, which are publicly funded schools that are privately run and largely without unions. Teachers unions opposed the ballot measure, which narrowly passed with financial backing from Mike and Jackie Bezos as well as Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Netflix founder Reed Hastings.’

“In short, Bezos is no friend of public education.”

Ravitch also wrote yesterday, “Jeff Bezos: Worse Than We Thought” and “Amazon in Culture Clash in Germany Because of Anti-Union Policies.”