It has only been one month since Amazon announced the end of its lengthy search for its second headquarters and announced it would expand to Long Island City, New York, Crystal City, Virginia and add a "center of operations" in Nashville. But instead of adapting to the idea of the Amazon in their midst, organizers in the three cities are doubling their resistance.
As of December 15, local coalitions in northern Virginia, Nashville, and New York have begun to flood public forums and elected officials' meetings to give their members an insight into the Amazon debate – organizers say they lack time. In Nashville, regulators will meet at the local industrial development board in an effort to gain insight into the deal (which has not yet been announced) and press the board to demand benefits from Amazon before moving on to vote. For approval. In northern Virginia, activists are demanding that elected officials in Arlington County – who ultimately vote to approve the arrival of the Amazon – protect communities most at risk of displacement because of the arrival of the Amazon. In Long Island, activists are calling on local leaders to cancel the deal with Amazon, and redistribute the support they have set for the company to finance the community's needs.
The search of the HQ2 sites in Long Island City and northern Virginia, as well as the new Nashville Operations Center, has drawn attention to its confidentiality. Instead of conducting a general process, Amazon held special meetings with some local leaders to secure incentives for their arrival. In New York, for example, Amazon is expected to receive about $ 3 billion in subsidies. Virginia, in addition to raising taxes on hotel rooms to pay for the arrival of Amazon (and re-changing the location of its headquarters as "National Landing"), promised to provide a giant advance warning of e-commerce of any Freedom of Information Act requests submitted by journalists or activists, She has time to cover herself before falling under public scrutiny. The two cities will use public funds to finance the helipads for Amazon's top-level staff.
Amidst all the public money that is going to flow into a company that has grown personal wealth from the CEO at an average of $ 260 million a day this year, activists feel there has been insufficient debate about whether the company will offer it to communities. There is a job promise – the two major cities will earn HQ2 25,000 each, while Amazon has pledged 5,000 in Nashville. But of those jobs – and what jobs are sufficient to offset the potential effects of entering the Amazon in these cities?
Not according to Odyssey Kelly, an organization with the Nashville Organization for Work and Hope, an interfaith group in the city and a member of the Nashville Stand Coalition. In the three cities, unemployment is low, but housing and the cost of living are already high, and the presence of the Amazon may increase. "Amazon comes up with six-digit jobs, but who will get those jobs?" Kelly says. "I have a feeling that they will try to move people from Seattle, rather than upgrading citizens here." Organizers in New York and Northern Virginia expressed similar concerns. Lee Carter, a representative of the socialist state of Manassas, Virginia (outside Arlington County), spoke about the Amazon's presence in the region, saying it would increase affordability and not provide real benefits. He said: "There is this traditional wisdom that says:" More jobs are working to fix everything magically " RVA magazine. "This is not what we need, we need jobs that we have to pay better."
But the question of jobs – who they are, and what they will be – is just one question mark for communities as they try to predict the impact of the Amazon on their region. "We do not know", is one of the main refrain of the organizers. "The community groups we share with are concerned about the lack of transparency in the process," says Danny Cindigas, an organizer at La Calixte VA, Virginia Lakes. "It repeats a cycle of exclusion where the people most affected are people who are excluded." He cites the fact that most homeowners in North Virginia are white, while minorities are mainly rented, and can see their homes priced below them as they move in the Amazon. On the site of the Spanish province of Irlington, there is no single mention of the Amazon deal. Another organizer, Roshan Abraham, says the province has had no contact with groups affected by Amazon.
This is what actions are intended before the leave. "We are working with organizations and local people to formulate demands with community members to get that process that government officials should have," Cindigas said. "The big thing we think is that this can not be the status quo – we can not get the secrecy between officials and companies." On December 15, the activists attended the Arlington County Council meeting to express concern about the lack of communication with colorful communities and to advocate for Spanish translation in all future events related to the Amazon Agreement between now and February, when the Arlington County Council will make a preliminary vote to approve the arrival of the Amazon. The board is likely to authorize the expansion of the technology company in the region, Cindigas said, but there will be a series of votes in the coming years on more points for the deal, such as the percentage of local residents who will be appointed to fill and promised 25,000 jobs. La ColectiVA aims to have a permanent presence at board meetings until February. The group, according to Cendejas, aims to ensure that people in the region at risk are protected from rising rents and be able to access the benefits the Amazon attracts, such as schools and public schools. (We called Amazon to comment, and we'll update the story if we hear.)
In Nashville, a coalition of grassroots groups and trade unions last year secured the passage of the Do Better Nashville bill, which imposes full transparency and opportunity for community input into planning and development decisions. Kelly says the "best act" bill is already inspired by the HQ2 process. But the city seems to have gotten around the bill mandates because the local Chamber of Commerce, a private entity, has concluded a deal with Amazon, not the mayor's office. Elected officials are aware that the chamber has offered to pay $ 500 per company out of 5,000 jobs pledged. This could add up to $ 15 million, making it difficult for regulators such as Kelly to afford it, given the city's difficulty in financing necessities such as public education. The finer points of the deal are still under wrap. Council members, for example, do not know whether jobs will go to local workers, or if Amazon pledges to finance housing or transportation for its existence. "That does not fit well with people," Kelly says. So it rallies and shakes the Bureau of the Industrial Development Board, which agrees to all developments, to ask them to apply the best law criteria when considering the Amazon proposal, and to relay the details of the deal to the larger community in Nashville so that they can formulate an informed response.
However, community groups in New York have already responded to Amazon, a company that does not. On December 19, activists led by the Alliance for New York (ALIGN) and the New York communities for change will travel to Albany, where they meet with the board of the State General Assembly. "They will not vote on the deal that day, but this is the group that will eventually vote to let Amazon come to New York, and we want them to understand that they should vote no, and what the impact will be," said Maritza Silva Farrell, executive director of ALIGN. Communities do not. "They have the support of elected officials such as Long Island City Councilman Jimmy Van Brammer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who object to the lack of transparency about the deal and its potential impact on communities.
In New York, Amazon has been angered to pick a location very close to one of the country's largest public housing projects, but has made an inappropriate promise to conduct awareness and vocational training programs for people living there. Under the agreement, Amazon will send representatives to job fairs and resume workshops at Queensbridge homes for three years starting in 2020, but details of the types of training services offered by the company are ambiguous.
For Silva-Farrell and other regulators, they look to other communities where Amazon has a presence that tells them everything they need to know. Given Seattle, which is a breeding ground for unsustainable housing, thanks in part to the technology giant, it has expressed concern about housing costs. Reports of poor working conditions, such as the workers of the East Africa Lafah Center currently beating in Minnesota, indicate that the company does not prioritize worker well-being. "Amazon puts a burden on communities more than it really helps," she says. "This is not the kind of model we want in New York." One report found that the arrival of the Amazon could cost the city 1,500 affordable housing units planned for land that has now been handed over to the Amazon.
There is no way, organizers say, to see the impact, if any, on their actions this week on Amazon's plans. Silva Farrell is cautiously optimistic: she helped drive a campaign in 2012 to stop Wal-Mart's development in East New York. There is now, instead, a grocery store that is unionizing its workforce. But she, Kelly, and Sindjas all realize that killing or changing a deal that has attracted as much attention as the search at the second headquarters will be a long and difficult process, and perhaps worthless in the end. The actions taken this week are a first step, and move forward, planning to work collaboratively to support efforts in all three cities to land on a more beneficial arrangement for the communities they represent. Efforts in all three cities are supported by the Partnership for Working Families, which advocates community and equitable development. "This is something we look forward to doing more than that," says Cindigas.