Amazon's founder and president Jeff Bezos has added nearly US$24 billion to his already vast fortune, as coronavirus-related lockdowns across the globe have forced people indoors and fueled a surge in e-commerce demand.
Amazon Workers Protest Near Detroit, Following NYC Walkout
The company's stock rose by 5.3 percent, "hitting a new record close of US$2,283 per share," Forbes reported Tuesday.
Owning an 11 percent stake in the company, Bezos has been the wealthiest person in the world since 2017. His worth was US$138 billion as of Tuesday, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
The index updates followed a report published Saturday by Forbes about how "market gains led to a combined US$51.3 billion boost for 10 of the world's billionaires since the market closed a week ago, on April 2." Bezos gained US$6.8 billion in that time.
Former presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, Senator Bernie Sanders, tweeted Wednesday the Forbes report pointing out how the wealth increases of Bezos and other billionaires contrast with the millions of citizens in the United States (U.S.) who are struggling because of the ongoing public health crisis.
While millions of people across the country lost their jobs and sources of income, Amazon announced that it hired 100,000 extra U.S. workers to deal with demand and noted it would hire another 75,000 "to help meet customer demand and assist existing employees fulfilling orders for essential products."
Over the past weeks, the retailer has come under heavy criticism for its handling of the outbreak.
Workers at Amazon and Whole Foods Market, the grocery chain acquired by the company in 2017, have expressed fear and frustration about working conditions. Many work on the frontlines packing and shipping items at warehouses where the disease can spread quickly.
Business Insider reported Tuesday Amazon's first warehouse worker death, an operations manager who worked at the company's Hawthorne, California warehouse. The man died two weeks ago on March 31.
Several warehouses have reported cases of the virus, and concerns from workers about safety and sanitation have led employees to organize strikes and walkouts.
Chris Smalls, a former manager assistant, was fired after leading workers at the JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island, New York, on a walkout.
Employees demanded Amazon to temporarily close the facility for cleaning after multiple employees tested positive for COVID-19.
Memos leaked by Vice News showed that company executives suggested to smear Smalls' credibility, portraying him as "not smart or articulate" in response to the backlash over his firing.
Several workers have since reported retaliation for organizing. In an op-ed for the Guardian, Smalls urged Bezos to spend more time on protecting his workers instead of repressing them for fighting for their lives and safety.
"Without us working, what are you going to do," he asked. "You'll have no money. We have the power. We make money for you. Never forget that."