The American Booksellers Association and two regional booksellers associations, the New England Independent Booksellers Association and the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association, weighed in Monday afternoon on President Obama’s scheduled Tuesday visit to an Amazon fulfillment warehouse in Chattanooga, Tenn. He is planning on making a speech there setting out his latest policies concerning middle class job creation.
Oren Teicher, the ABA CEO, wrote in a letter addressed to Obama that for the president to talk up jobs and the economy at an Amazon facility, and to praise the company as a job creator is “woefully misguided.”
Amazon’s business practices, Teicher explained, “are actually harming small businesses and the American economy.” Referring to Amazon’s announcement this morning that it is hiring 5,000 employees in 17 fulfillment centers and another 2,000 full-time, part-time, and seasonal workers in four customer service centers, Teicher alleged that Amazon has caused the loss of many jobs, due to driving out of business numerous small businesses that can’t compete with Amazon’s heavily discounted prices. According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Teicher pointed out, for every $10 million that shifts from bricks-and-mortar stores to Amazon.com, 33 retail jobs are lost.
“That would mean, for 2012 alone, Amazon cost the U.S. 42,000 jobs just last year,” Teicher wrote, also pointing out that Amazon.com “has flouted sales tax laws” and “negatively impacted state budgets and services, as well as those of local communities.”
Piling on with their own letters to the President, the boards of both organizations were considerably more pointed than the ABA’s tactfully-worded communication. NEIBA demanded to know, “What is the thinking behind this decision? . . . [Amazon's] business model is based on fighting those states that have required them to collect and remit sales tax while driving Main Street brick and mortar stores out of business through predatory pricing.”
“We cannot believe this is your vision of job creation and the future of American middle class,” wrote NAIBA. “We would hope your administration would be standing with Main Street, and investigating the monopolistic practices of Amazon, rather than explicitly or tacitly endorsing those practices.”
While Teicher ended his letter by suggesting that Obama meet with him and other “real job creators” over a cup of coffee at his favorite local independent bookstore, both NEIBA and NAIBA urged Obama to “rethink using Amazon as a beacon of hope” in his “Better Bargain for the Middle Class” policy speech. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” they each concluded.
NEIBA urged booksellers to send their own message to the White House, and many have already heeded that request.