By M.A. Rahman
Published: March 6th, 2019
The Brooklyn College Student Leadership Council (SLC) held an open discussion for students of all backgrounds and majors to discuss their thoughts on Amazon’s now abandoned plans to establish a second HQ in Long Island City as well as the economic implications of this scheme.
“New York didn’t need Amazon, Amazon needed New York,” said Jordan Caine, a senior and Marketing major, expressing doubts that few, if any, white collar work would be made available by Amazon. Caine also remarked how underwhelming the quality of work Amazon would have offered saying, “just about everyone would have been working in a warehouse doing entry level work, thanklessly.”
Throughout the student-guided discussion, participants were overwhelmingly fixated on arguably Amazon’s most prominent feature as a corporation: its size and the political leverage that comes with an employer of its magnitude.
“I like Amazon, I want them here, but three billion in subsidies? What’s the point of giving them those kinds of benefits if all we get back is 25,000 miserable jobs?” clamored one student before referencing reports of low paid employees resorting to using ‘pee-bottles’ in order to maintain their jobs.
The aforementioned plans associated with the construction of a new HQ were estimated to bring in roughly 25,000 minimum wage jobs over the course of the next 10 years with Amazon seeking roughly three billion in tax subsidies.
Alarmed by this and the precedent set by it, many students in attendance decried Amazon for the company’s reputation of being able to circumvent anti-trust laws, business practices, work conditions and perceived political maneuvering in service of gaining more favorable deals from local politicians.
The discussion at times contentious with occasional disagreements, virtually the entire room found themselves in agreement: Amazon was and has been a ruthless actor in terms of behavior as competitor and employer, the kind with a history of being particularly hostile to the interest of working-class people.
Questions swirled across the room concerning the parallels between Amazon and another competing conglomerate that also lost its fight for NY– Walmart. “Maybe New York has too high expectations,” whispered one speaker. “That’s fine,” replied another.
Eventually discussions came to a predictable halt, as it began to lead into the dilemma of how to enact some means of regulation to prevent corporations from paying their share of taxes while preventing them of hiring outside labor, a thought experiment that for some in the room elected not to entertain.
Still, some students insisted that things would have been better for New Yorkers if Amazon would have stayed.
“I’m in the minority but I think it was a mistake, I feel like everyone was too quick on this,” said one of the SLC organizers, Muhammad Ahsan, a junior and Finance major. He iterated that advocates against Amazon’s expansive plan were seeking financial upliftment too soon rather said opponents should consider that with enough time the positive effects of this deal would have eventually caught up with the negative ones.
According to the Young Progressives of America (YPA) founder and BC student Carlos Jesus Calzadilla-Palacio, the Amazon deal posed a particular predicament for CUNY students as in the time when college tuition is due to hike and infrastructure falls in disrepair. The CUNY members of the Board of Trustees have elected to support a deal that will deprive the city of much-needed funding.
Amazon remains mum as to the reason(s) that led to why it ultimately pulled plans to build its second headquarters in New York, currently, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo is looking to get Amazon to reconsider leaving NY.
“I liked today’s discussion, not everyone agreed on they see different parts of Amazon and that’s OK,” Ahsan concluded on the SLC event, optimistic students will be just as interested in their future topics of discussion.