‘Super spreader’ Jeff Bezos could pay sick leave for all Amazon staff with less than 1% of his wealth

April 29, 2020

  • Amazon is expected to announce record earnings on Thursday, but is failing to protect staff from covid-19, says SumOfUs. 
  • During the pandemic Amazon’s share price has rocketed 50% and CEO Bezos’s wealth has risen by $41bn to $146bn.

Two weeks of paid sick leave for all Amazon employees would cost less than 1% of CEO Jeff Bezos’s $146bn fortune, according to the global consumer group SumOfUs. An average Amazon employee earns $16.26 an hour, meaning it would cost an estimated $1,300 per worker, or $1.04bn for the entire global workforce of 798,000, to take two weeks’ paid leave.

Hundreds of Amazon employees have gone on strike over lack of covid-19 protective equipment like masks, limited sick pay and poor cleaning practices in warehouses. When employees have spoken up with concerns they have been fired. Cases of Covid-19 cases have been reported in over half of Amazon’s US warehouses, and one worker has already died in California.

Meanwhile, Amazon is expected to announce record earnings on Thursday 30 April when it reports its Q1 2020 financial results. Its share price has risen by over 50% since mid-March as more consumers shop online due to the covid-19 lockdown, further boosting Bezos’s wealth.

SumOfUs found:

  • Just 0.3% of Amazon’s predicted $335 billion annual revenue could pay for every employee to take two weeks’ paid sick leave.
  • In one second, Amazon’s $11,000 of sales could cover 2 weeks’ sick pay for 8 employees.
  • An average Amazon employee would have to work for over 4 million years (since before the Stone Age) to amass Jeff Bezos’s wealth.

Over 112,000 SumOfUs members have signed a petition demanding Amazon and other companies provide comprehensive sick leave. Last week, SumOfUs installed a giant billboard outside of Bezos’s Washington D.C. mansion accusing him of being a covid-19 super spreader.

SumOfUs campaigner Vicky Wyatt said: “Jeff Bezos is the ultimate super spreader. His refusal to offer proper sick pay leaves Amazon employees with no choice but to turn up to work sick.

“Bezos would rather protect his profit margin than his workers. He is raking in $11,000 a second from the safety of his mansion, while warehouse staff and delivery drivers risk their lives to keep his business running.”

Jeff Bezos is the richest person in the world. He owns a number of mansions including a $165 million property in Beverly Hills, which recently broke the record for the most expensive house sale in California’s history.

Notes to the editors

  1. Photos of the ‘super spreader’ billboard are available here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmMJTvrZ
  2. SumOfUs’s petition on paid sick leave is available here: https://actions.sumofus.org/a/drivers-shouldn-t-work-sick-demand-paid-sick-leave-for-delivery-and-rideshare-employees
  3. According to January 2020 figures, Amazon has 798,000 employees at the end of 2019. This figure may not include all contract workers: https://ir.aboutamazon.com

    An Amazon employee earns on average $16.26 per hour (many workers such as warehouse workers and delivery drivers earn less than this): https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Employer=Amazon.com_Inc/Hourly_Rate

    If employees work 40 hours a week, then it would cost an estimated $1,300.80 per employee to pay 2 weeks paid sick leave. (40 x 2 x $16.26 = $1,300.80).

    For the total workforce, it would cost an estimated $1.03bn for every employee to take 2 weeks’ paid sick pay. (798,000 x $1,300.80 = $1.03bn)

    Calculations for sick leave costs are formulated at their most basic level, based on an average wage of $16.26/hr and do NOT account for other factors such as taxes, national or local legislation, or union contracts.

    The additional cost for the total workforce to take sick leave could in reality be lower than $1.03bn as some Amazon employees already benefit from a paid leave package. Amazon offers paid leave to some of its workforce already - 26 weeks of partially paid personal medical leave to full-time employees, and only 24 hours to part-time employees - and no paid family caregiving leave. But this only covers some of its workforce with some employees and contractors left with no cover at all.
  4. Jeff Bezos is richest man in the world with an estimated total net worth of $146bn according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index (accessed 27 April 2020) https://www.bloomberg.com/billionaires/ 

    His wealth as increased from $105bn on 16 March 2020 to $146bn on 26 April 2020: https://www.bloomberg.com/billionaires/profiles/jeffrey-p-bezos/
  5. If an average Amazon employee worked for 40 hours a week they could earn $33,820.80 a year ($16.26 x 40 hours x 52 weeks). If they worked for 4 million years they would earn $135.3bn, before tax or any living costs, less than Bezos’s $146bn wealth.
  6. More information on Jeff Bezos’s mansions including his $165 million Beverly Hills, California mansion can be found here: https://www.businessinsider.com/jeff-bezos-owns-five-massive-homes-across-the-united-states-2017-10?r=US&IR=T
  7. Amazon’s share price opened at $1,641.51 on 16 March 2020 and closed at $2,410.22 on 24 April 2020, an increase of over 50% in just under 6 weeks: https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/quote/AMZN/history/
  8. Analysts expect Amazon to increase its annual sales by nearly 20% to reach $335bn, or $11,000 a second: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/apr/15/amazon-lockdown-bonanza-jeff-bezos-fortune-109bn-coronavirus
  9. More than 300 Amazon employees have pledged to stay home from work in protest over covid-19 safety measures, according to worker rights group United for Respect: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/apr/20/amazon-warehouse-workers-sickout-coronavirus
  10. Reports of Amazon employees being fired after speaking out about their concerns can be found here:



  11. Amazon has put in place a policy of paying workers 14 days sick leave if they test positive for COVID-19 or are ordered to quarantine by a medical professional. However, access to tests is challenging, and the advice from health officials if you are suffering mild symptoms is to stay at home and self-isolate for 7-14 days. SumOfUs is calling for Amazon and other companies to offer paid sick leave to employees that self-report as sick or need to self-isolate because they are symptomatic.