Amazon $2 Billion Tax Fraud Controversy… Union Power Putting Pressure On Tech Giants
- Amazon has been accused of profiteering from a multi-billion-pound VAT fraud
- MPs said the retailer was ‘turning a blind eye’ to organised criminals from China
- This takes up to £1.5billion a year from Treasury coffers and undercuts traders
- Amazon blasted as foreign traders use warehouses without valid VAT numbers
Amazon was accused last night of profiteering from a multi-billion-pound VAT fraud that is pushing British businesses to the wall.
MPs said the online retailer was ‘turning a blind eye’ to organised criminals from China and elsewhere who sell their goods cheaply on internet auction sites – but don’t register to pay VAT.
The scam takes up to £1.5billion a year from Treasury coffers and lets the sellers undercut law-abiding British traders, forcing them to fold or lay staff off.
Union Power Is Putting Pressure on Silicon Valley’s Tech Giants
Organizers have unionized 5,000 contract workers at Apple, Facebook, Yahoo!, and more.
Organized labor doesn’t rack up a lot of wins these days, and Silicon Valley isn’t most people’s idea of a union hotbed. Nonetheless, in the past three years unions have organized 5,000 people who work on Valley campuses. Among others, they’ve unionized shuttle drivers at Apple, Tesla, Twitter, LinkedIn, EBay, Salesforce.com, Yahoo!, Cisco, and Facebook; security guards at Adobe, IBM, Cisco, and Facebook; and cafeteria workers at Cisco, Intel, and, earlier this summer, Facebook.
The workers aren’t technically employed by any of those companies. Like many businesses, Valley giants hire contractors that typically offer much less in the way of pay and benefits than the tech companies’ direct employees get. Among other things, such arrangements help companies distance themselves from the way their cafeteria workers and security guards are treated, because somebody else is cutting the checks. Silicon Valley Rising, a coalition of unions and civil rights, community, and clergy groups heading the organizing campaign, says its successes have come largely from puncturing that veneer of plausible deniability.
That means directing political pressure, media scrutiny, and protests toward the tech companies themselves. “Everybody knows that the contractors will do what the tech companies say, so we’re focused on the big guys,” says Ben Field, a co-founder of the coalition who heads the AFL-CIO’s South Bay Labor Council. Labor leaders say their efforts have gotten some tech companies to cut ties with an anti-union contractor, intervene with others to ease unionization drives, and subsidize better pay for contract workers.
“If you want to get people to buy your product, you don’t want them to feel that buying your product is contributing to the evils of the world,” says Silicon Valley Rising co-founder Derecka Mehrens, who directs Working Partnerships USA, a California nonprofit that advocates for workers. Tech companies have been image-conscious and closely watched of late, she says, and the coalition is “being opportunistic.”
The first such recent effort, in 2014, unionized 87 Facebook Inc. shuttle drivers employed by contractor Loop Transportation Inc. “We won by beating up Facebook, not beating up Loop,” says California Teamster leader Rome Aloise. Initially, Loop resisted recognizing the union, citing Facebook’s opposition, according to Aloise. So the Teamsters forced a vote by the drivers that was supervised by the National Labor Relations Board (the union won); union activists drew media attention to stories of Facebook shuttle driverssleeping in their cars between grueling split shifts. “We got press in Japan and Germany and all over the world by saying Facebook,” Aloise says. “Nobody would’ve given a shit if I was saying Loop.”