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To: Interested Parties
From: Free and Fair Markets Initiative (FFMI)
RE: The Real Story of Amazon’s Exit From NYC
Date: February 15, 2019

BACKGROUND

Amazon officially pulled the plug this week on a planned corporate campus in Queens, and now they are pointing fingers at state and local lawmakers who dared ask basic questions about the backroom deal. Don’t be fooled by some of the misleading headlines in the news. No one is to blame for this but Amazon themselves. Look for them to pull out all the stops in the coming days and weeks to save face.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED

No amount of deflection and distraction can obscure what actually happened: Amazon tried to bully concerned residents, businesses and workers into submission, and when the community didn’t back down, Amazon fled.

This is a story about engaged community members coming together to stand up to a company that had been getting away with highway robbery for years, strong-arming local governments around the country into giving them sweetheart deals and special treatment. It was never about being mobilized to fight any corporation that wanted to move to New York – it was about fighting Amazon, which is uniquely destructive to the communities where it operates.

As the executive director of Good Jobs First said to the New York Times, “Suddenly the green curtain was pulled back. People are aghast at what they saw, and rightfully so.” The HQ2 fight could be a turning point for corporate welfare.

NEW YORKERS WERE WARNED WHAT COULD HAPPEN

Queens listened when Seattle officials came to New York to warn lawmakers of being Amazon’s backyard. The officials said “[Amazon] thought they could bury us,” referring to Amazon’s approach to shutting down opposition. The community listened to horror stories about skyrocketing housing prices, soaring rates of homelessness and strained infrastructure funds. And they listened to businesses small and large across the country that have been sounding the alarm about Amazon’s anticompetitive business practices.

TRUST IS EARNED, NOT GIVEN

New York City asked Amazon to earn their trust, and Amazon thought they were entitled to it.

New York City Council Members Corey Johnson, Jimmy Van Bramer and State Senator Mike Gianaris did what might not have been viewed as popular at the time, but advocated for what they believed was best for their city, boroughs and constituents by asking Amazon the hard questions. The two city council hearings that scrutinized this deal exposed Amazon’s absolute unwillingness to be accountable and transparent.

A PACKAGE OF EMPTY PROMISES

These Council Members did not kill a jobs proposal; they refused to take the bait on a package of empty promises. As Bryce Covert rightfully pointed out in the New York Times, massive incentive packages are a burden for taxpayers. Study after study shows that corporations regularly overpromise and underdeliver, and taxpayers ultimately lose.

CONCLUSION

The way Amazon conducted itself under the slightest of pressure in New York is shameful and it should have Northern Virginia, Nashville and another locality thinking twice before inviting them to their neighborhood with a taxpayer handout. The ability of Queens to successfully take on Amazon should also be a clear signal to concerned residents, businesses and workers in those communities that they, too, have a voice.

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ABOUT THE FREE & FAIR MARKETS INITIATIVE

The Free & Fair Markets Initiative (FFMI) is a non-profit coalition of businesses, consumer advocacy groups, workers and community activists committed to scrutinizing and highlighting emerging market trends that are stifling competition and innovation, influencing federal and local government spending, putting consumer data in harm’s way and limiting consumer choice. For a list of members, please visit https://freeandfairmarketsinitiative.org/about-us/members/. For more information on the Free & Fair Markets Initiative, please visit https://freeandfairmarketsinitiative.org.