Jeff Bezos thanks Amazon workers and customers after space flight: ‘You paid for all of this’

July 20, 2021, 10:52 PM UTC

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s executive chairman and the world’s richest person, successfully completed his 10-minute flight to the cusp of outer space and back to the West Texas desert this morning. Upon his return to earth, Bezos, decked in a blue space suit and a cowboy hat, thanked Amazon employees and customers, noting that they “paid for all of this,” referring to the billions in personal Amazon stock he sold to fund his endeavor.  

Critics of Bezos immediately jumped on the comments. “Yes, Amazon workers did pay for this – with lower wages, union busting, a frenzied and inhumane workplace, and delivery drivers not having health insurance during a pandemic,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said of Bezos’ comments on Twitter. “And Amazon customers are paying for it with Amazon abusing their market power to hurt small business.”

The median Amazon worker made $29,007 in 2020, with a CEO-to-worker pay ratio of 58:1. Amazon delivery drivers have complained of grueling conditions that led them to ignore stop signs and skip meals to get packages delivered. Factory workers, who had a pre-pandemic turnover rate of 150% per year, have said they were forced to use bottles instead of taking bathroom breaks. They complained of unsafe and injury-inducing speed requirements, and said constant monitoring led to an environment filled with fear and suspicion. Labor leaders have accused the company of engaged in repeated illegal conduct that prevented a “free and fair” union election at one of its Alabama warehouses this Spring. 

Bezos, who is worth about $204 billion, sold about $6.7 billion worth of his Amazon shares in early May, after the company reported that it tripled profit in its first quarter. Last February he sold nearly $4.1 billion of shares and more than $3 billion worth last November. Each year $1 billion of those sales, says Bezos, will bankroll Blue Origin, the space company he founded in 2000, the one that launched him and his crew into space Tuesday. 

Bezos hopes to use Blue Origin to tap into the space tourism market, which is expected to grow into a $1.7 billion sector by 2027. Bezos announced this week that his space venture has already brought in nearly $100 million in private sales, and that was before the crew even boarded his New Shepard rocket ship today. 

Last month Blue Origin auctioned off a seat on the initial flight, where a still-unidentified bidder won the spot at a cool $28 million, or about $2.5 million per minute. The bidder was unable to make this particular flight due to scheduling conflicts, and his spot went to Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old student from the Netherlands. Bezos was also joined by his brother, Mark Bezos, and Wally Funk, an 82 year-old pilot who trained for NASA’s Mercury program in 1961 but was not allowed to go into space because of her gender. Wally is officially the oldest person to enter space, and Daemen the youngest. 

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