Bernie Sanders slams Amazon for perpetuating Seattle homelessness after killing ‘head tax’

Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders slammed e-commerce giant Amazon on Monday for playing a role in the homelessness crisis in its hometown of Seattle.

On Twitter, Sanders suggested Amazon using its weight to kill a so-called “head tax” last year – which would have been levied on the city’s largest employers to combat the spread of homelessness – is linked to the ongoing crisis.

A spokesperson for Amazon did not have a comment on the tweet.

Last year, the Seattle City Council initially passed the tax in May, which would have required companies that earn at least $20 million per year to pay $275 per employee annually. Amazon and Starbucks – which also calls Seattle home – pushed for the city to repeal the tax.

The proposal would have cost Amazon—which employees about 45,000 workers in the city – an estimated $12.4 million annually.

Last June, the Seattle City Council repealed the head tax.

Critics argued that businesses in the area would have been negatively impacted by the tax, which could have reduced hiring and wages.

Meanwhile, the homelessness crisis is worsening on the West Coast. The number of homeless people in San Francisco has increased 17 percent since 2017, according to the San Francisco Chronicle – which also noted that the city spends more than $300 million each year to combat the problem. The homeless population in Los Angeles County increased 12 percent over the past year.

An annual count of the homeless population in King County, Seattle – the thirteenth largest county in the U.S. – registered an overall decrease year over year – to 11,199 people. However, critics say that is likely an underestimation.

Amazon has been credited with exacerbating the disappearance of affordable housing in the city.

But the company's CEO, Jeff Bezos, pledged about $100 million to combat homelessness in America last year, via dozens of nonprofits. Amazon has also promised to build one of the largest homeless shelters in Seattle – as part of a new downtown building. Amazon estimates its donations and gifts to nonprofit partners Mary's Place and Farestart are valued at more than $130 million.


On the other coast, New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently made headlines for suggesting that owning a home should be a human right.

“What are we doing to make sure housing is being legislated as a human right?” Ocasio-Cortez asked during a town hall in the Bronx, New York. “It means our access and our ability and our guarantee to having a home comes before someone else’s privilege to earn a profit.”