News & Opinion by Jeff Reifman
Special to the
-- While I greatly appreciate Nina Shapiro’s front
page story on Amazon’s impacts on
The Seattle Times, I disagree with her coverage of the company’s impact on
Seattle diversity; in fact, her reporting contradicts two other statistical
reports from The Times’ Gene Balk.
Her story focused on
Amazon’s self-reported worldwide workforce diversity: 37% female, 60% white and
reports on Seattle’s supposedly increasing diversity, to 34% people of color.
She also focused on a city
map showing increasing diversity in the North End from 2000 to
2010. There are a number of things wrong with all of this data.
global workforce is over 183,000 while its local force is only 24,000 (less
than 1/7th of this.) Assessing Amazon’s local workforce diversity on global
data is completely inaccurate.
workforce numbers primarily reflect the makeup of its warehouse
workers. The company continues to refuse to release gender and minority
workforce data for its technology workforce and its Seattle workforce even as
Microsoft has and Google, Facebook and Apple have done so for the former.
In Seattle Weekly’s Big
Tech is Blind, Jesse Jackson says Amazon’s “…board of directors are all
white, in 2015, and the workforce is not that different. There’s something
wrong.” and it continues “Last year, Amazon reported that just 4 percent of its
managers were African American.”
The rumor I’ve heard
is that the company’s local technology workforce is only five percent female.
city map doesn’t reflect the
majority of Amazon’s growth impact on the city, which occurred since 2011 (as I
wrote in You’ve
Got Male, Amazon’s Seattle workforce has nearly quintupled from
approximately 5,211 in 2010 to over 24,000 in 2015.) However, it does show the
already radical gentrification of most of South Seattle — up 26.2% (the
yellowish map areas seen in map above right).
Amazon’s just making
things worse. How much worse? In October 2014, The Seattle Times statistical
expert Gene Balk reported that the
city’s whiter than in 2010, growing to 67% white from 65.2%: “Seattle
experienced a miniboom in its white population last year, adding more than
23,000 people. That bumped up the total number of whites to 437,000 — a 6
percent increase from the year before.” Amazon’s rapid growth has been a big
part of that.
And, just last month,
Balk reported that King County is now the whitest of the nation’s twenty
most populous counties.
accurately reflects the greater impact of Amazon’s workforce expansion — as The
Times reported, some have had to move to Bainbridge and Shoreline et
al. after finding city housing unaffordable (it also
missed highlighting how unaffordable housing in Seattle has become for
average residents that make much less than these Amazon employees.)
Balk also reported
(as I’ve… often… said),
“…it’s no surprise the growth in our white population skews to men, who number
5,800 more than women since 2010.”
The Amazon diversity
mentioned in The Seattle Times report: “on his team of 20, a dozen are
from other countries, including Ukraine, Costa Rica and China” is likely from
its use of the nation’s controversial H1-B visa program.
According to MyVisaJobs.com,
“Amazon Corporate Llc has filed 4386 labor condition applications for H1B visa
and 1371 labor certifications for green card from fiscal year 2011 to
2014….ranked 21 among all visa sponsors.” While I approve of international
diversity, I think these programs are exploited to pay immigrants less and
leave qualified Americans unemployed. If there is a dearth of qualified
Americans, it’s because our tax system fails to lead corporate investments in
our education system — as the State Supreme Court’s contempt rulings on
Washington’s Legislature shows (as well as Microsoft’s
I emailed Ms.
Shapiro about these issues and asked her if she’d be willing to file an update
about it. After she declined, I thought it best to post this response.
I did send her the
featured photo from a local coffeeshop I walked into this morning: six
white men on laptops (the only diversity was the one PC among five Macs).
Overall though, I
applaud her and The Seattle Times for bringing Amazon’s controversial status to
Until the company
steps up to engage these issues truthfully, transparently and constructively, it’s time
to end our Prime memberships and cut our spending at Amazon.
Jeff Reifman is a communications and
technology consultant, freelance writer and activist. He blogs at JeffReifman.com or follow him @reifman on Twitter.
This article was originally published at JeffReifman.com and is
reprinted here with permission of the author.