Is Amazon looking to leave Seattle?

CEO Andy Jassy says the relationship with Seattle's city council has gotten 'rougher'

It's no secret that Seattle-based Amazon and the city council of its headquarters have been going through a rough patch for several years, and CEO Andy Jassy gave his take on the situation this week.

While Jassy maintains that the retail giant will always have folks in the area, Amazon is looking outside The Emerald City as it expands – and there are no guarantees that Seattle will remain home base.

Andy Jassy

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy. (Isaac Brekken/AP Images for NFL, File)


"I think our relationship with Seattle had ups and downs, frankly," Jassy said during an interview at the 2021 GeekWire Summit. "I think the first 20-ish years [were] pretty collaborative," he said, noting that when Amazon decided to build its campus the council "was very supportive and solicitous."

But in the past five years, he said, "The City Council has become less enamored with business or with Amazon," adding, "it’s just been rougher."

In 2018, Seattle passed a so-called "head tax" aimed at Amazon and other large employers in the city, which would have imposed a $275 annual charge per employee for companies in the city that earn $20 million or more.

Amazon headquarters

Amazon headquarters in Seattle. (Photo credit should read Toby Scott / Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)


That would have cost Amazon roughly $60 million per year just for being located in Seattle, most of which was intended to address homelessness in the city. 

The company, which employs more than 50,000 people in the region, responded by threatening to stop construction on its downtown buildings at the time. After pressure from business groups, the council repealed the measure.

Amazon spent $1.5 million the next year on the campaigns of council candidates more friendly to businesses, but were unsuccessful in most of the races. The council went on to implement a more modest version of the head tax.

In March of last year, Amazon opened a shelter in Seattle to help at-risk families.

"Built inside an Amazon office building at our Seattle HQ, Washington State's largest family shelter has already provided 700 people with safe shelter, served over 130,000 meals to guests, and welcomed 26 babies born to moms in residence," former CEO and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said in a statement on the one-year anniversary of the facility. "Thank you to the Mary's Place and Amazon teams for their heart and their dedication to making The Regrade shelter a critical resource for our community."

Meanwhile, far-left members on the Seattle city council continue to push for taxing Amazon more, unthreatened by the prospect of businesses like Amazon leaving the unfriendly territory.

Kshama Sawant

 Socialist Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File) (AP Newsroom)

Councilmember Kshama Sawant has been a vocal critic of the company. One tweet of hers from roughly a year ago reads, "We need a People’s Budget that defunds police by at least 50%, rejects austerity by increasing the Amazon Tax on pandemic profiteers, protects renters & homeowners from eviction and foreclosure, funds renter organizing to build the fight to #CancelRent, funds the Green New Deal."

Sawant did not immediately respond to FOX Business for comment on Amazon. She is currently facing a recall, after beating a Democrat for her position in 2013.


But Amazon's new CEO says the animosity from Seattle's city council members has become too much to ignore in recent years.

"First of all, we don’t think of HQ1 being Seattle any longer," Jassy told the GeekWire crowd. "We really think of it as Puget Sound. We have a lot of people in Seattle, but we also have a lot of people in Bellevue and it is where most of our growth will end up being."