In early March 2020, as the COVID-19 outbreak evolved into a pandemic, the online retail giant Amazon launched the Amazon Relief Fund, which among other things, allows its workers to continue receiving sick pay if they contract the coronavirus.
Although the Jeff Bezos-owned company has pumped in $25 million to establish the fund to "assist" its employees, the CEO is facing flak from the online community for asking the public to donate to this fund despite being the world's richest man.
Jeff Bezos sparks backlash
"How is your company worth over a TRILLION dollars and you want the public to donate to an employee relief fund?! As if Amazon can't pay their employees themselves," wrote one user on Twitter. Some even went as far as saying that the billionaire would keep most of the donations for himself.
"Not only he has enough money like Bill Gates who actually donates money, but people like Jeff Bezos would probably pocket more than half of the donations and write it off as administration costs," commented a Reddit user. Here are some of the reactions on Twitter:
Soliciting funds to pay for employees' sick leaves
Bezos and his company received further criticism after a publication pointed out that the Amazon Relief fund would be paying for seasonal and contract workers' sick leaves. The publication added that the workers would have to file an application to receive money from the fund.
The report, published by Popular Information, sparked anger over the idea that a profitable, corporate giant like Amazon was soliciting donations from the public to fund sick leave for some of its workforce during a pandemic. The publication's founder, Judd Legum, also shared a thread on Twitter to draw people's attention to the issue.
Fact-checking website Snopes has confirmed this news as true and revealed that Bezos has, in fact, launched the fund to provide sick leave for contract workers and seasonal employees through a grant program to which those workers must file applications before receiving benefits.
Although the wording on the fund's page has now been altered to reflect that donations are not expected, the earlier language was more aggressive in asking the general public for donations. "The Fund relies primarily on individual donations from individuals and support from Amazon.com Services LLC to fund this program," a statement on the archived version of the page from last week read.
In the wake of the backlash, Amazon released the following statement: "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. 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."