Our Amazon HQ2 Wishlist

An Open Letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

October 17, 2017

Dear Jeff,

So last month, Amazon announced that you are looking for a location for your second headquarters (Amazon HQ2), and cities across North America jumped at a chance to submit proposals. You have your list of things you’re looking for from cities—but we live in these cities, and we’ve got some expectations of our own for Amazon.

We love jobs, we love technology, and we love convenience—but what you’re looking for will impact every part of our cities. We built these cities, and we want to make sure they remain ours.




1. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs


It’s clear that one of the main selling points of bringing Amazon’s HQ2 to ANY city is that you’ve promised to create between 40-50,000 new jobs. Who doesn’t love new jobs? Well, we think it’s important to talk about the kinds of jobs we get. We believe that Amazon will need workers to do roughly three types of work: construction, permanent positions on your campus including service workers, programmers & administrators, and logistics. Across Amazon's operation, we want safe, family-sustaining jobs where workers' rights are respected.

Construction   [show more / less]

The first big phase of Amazon’s project will inevitably involve construction workers—you’ve got to build a campus big enough to house all those workers! As you think about coming to our city, we’re asking you to make sure those are good jobs, available to us and our neighbors. We’re asking you to:

  • Reserve a substantial number of construction jobs for local residents, especially underrepresented people of color and women, and partner with workforce development and community organizations that can help ensure the success of a targeted hire program;
  • Make sure that construction contractors enter into project labor agreements that will help ensure workers have protections on the job and can guarantee that construction will be completed on time using skilled hands;
  • Use and invest in high quality pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs that create new pathways for underrepresented workers such as women and people of color;
  • Protect the right to form a union, and to whistle-blow on unsafe conditions;
  • Ensure that all construction employers on your project pay living wages, provide access to high-quality health benefits and retirement security, fair scheduling and health and safety education; and
  • Implement measures that protect formerly incarcerated people from discrimination during the hiring process.

Permanent Campus Workers   [show more / less]

A large part of Amazon’s workforce will no doubt be highly-educated office workers -- you estimate the average pay for this new workforce will exceed $100,000 per year! Many tech companies, including Amazon, use guest worker visas to hire people with skills they claim not to be able to find in the US. If these are the good jobs of our nation’s future, let’s make sure that Amazon HQ2 is helping us prepare our own kids, unemployed workforce, and returning citizens for them. We’re asking you to:

  • Create a mentoring program where Amazon engineers, economists, data scientists, accountants, and other professionals are partnered with hard science teachers in our school districts to help show kids what it’s like to work in STEM;
  • Partner with groups that provide skills trainings to adults, to make sure that our unemployed residents are learning what they need to work again;
  • Respect the right of workers to form a union for all your workers, including the service workers that make your campus run, and remain neutral in any union organizing drives;
  • Develop responsible contracting standards for service contracts to ensure that cafeteria workers, janitors, security officers and other onsite service workers are paid a livable wage, receive benefits equitable to those received by directly employed workers, have the right to a voice at work without fear of discrimination or retaliation, do not suffer mass layoffs when contracts change hands, and are protected from misclassification and other forms of wage theft;
  • Partner with workforce development groups to provide job training for returning citizens;
  • Hold monthly meetings where engineers who are working on automation efforts sit down with warehouse workers, delivery drivers, and other blue collar workers that may be impacted, to discuss the plans.

Logistics   [show more / less]

Obviously, logistics and operations are at the very core of Amazon’s DNA. In the past, Amazon’s warehouses have been reported for creating unsafe working conditions, and outsourcing jobs. We realize that the plans for HQ2 don’t directly project increased warehousing in our city—but some of us already have Amazon warehouses in our state, and we think you need to clean up your employment practices in them. We’re asking you to:

  • Agree to directly employ the majority of warehouse workers and severely limit the use of temp agencies;
  • Respect workers’ right to form or join a union, and protect whistleblowers;
  • Allow independent, third party organizations to conduct health & safety trainings regularly;
  • Pay living wages, provide access to high-quality health benefits and retirement security, and employ fair scheduling practices;
  • Ensure that a substantial percentage of jobs go to working people from disadvantaged communities; workers who struggle with irregular employment; and returning citizens; and
  • Allow warehouse workers to give input into planned automation, and provide retraining programs when automation causes job loss.

2. Building and Sustaining Great Communities


The qualities that Amazon is looking for in its new home search are the same things many of us want—it’s perfectly normal to want a place where employees will enjoy “living, recreational opportunities, educational opportunities, and an overall high quality of life.” The things about our cities that make you want to move here are the same reasons many of us live here—we have great systems of higher education, museums, and infrastructure that helps move people and things from one place to another. But we got that stuff by collectively paying for it, through taxes, and we’re expecting Amazon to pay your fair share if you end up being our neighbor.

Taxes   [show more / less]

It goes without saying that you can’t have great public services without paying taxes. We know you’ve had a little problem grasping that, sometimes. Here’s the deal:

  • If you want a highly-educated local talent pool you must pay all of your property taxes to fund our schools, public safety, infrastructure and other public goods and services;
  • For the same reasons, you must pay sales taxes on the HQ2’s building materials, machinery and equipment. And although you’ve finally this year started collecting sales taxes on your own goods in every state with a sales tax, you need to also do that on sales conducted on your platform by third parties.
  • You must not seek to keep your employees’ state personal income taxes, nor should you seek the right to sell your corporate income tax credits to other companies.

Transportation   [show more / less]

We love that you’re looking for cities that have robust public transit infrastructure—but we know that an influx of 50,000 new people will strain our existing service, and building new transit to serve Amazon could divert funds from the rest of us. Let’s make sure that, as transit gets built out, it’s working for everyone in our community. We’re asking you to:

  • Support transit investment that serves us all, especially communities that rely on public transit;
  • Make sure that discussion of new lines, new routes, or other expansion of transit services includes community input;
  • Ensure affordability for all users of any new systems of public transportation;
  • Decrease carbon emissions by only using clean-energy vehicles; and
  • Make sure that jobs created by transportation construction and expansion follow the same principles we laid out for construction jobs on your own site.

Housing   [show more / less]

It’s no secret that the tech industry has hastened an affordable housing crisis in Seattle and other cities around the country (including some of ours!). We want to make sure that as our community grows, it’s not outgrowing our ability to stay here. We’re asking you to:

  • Make a significant annual contribution to supporting the development and preservation of affordable housing in our city, including by contributing land to Community Land Trusts or similar organizations that will ensure housing affordability over the long term; and
  • Support, with resources, organizations that are defending the rights of tenants and vulnerable homeowners.

Small Businesses   [show more / less]

Small businesses give our cities character, charm, and local flavor. They’re what people remember, when they visit—and provide goods and services that local residents count on from one generation to the next. We’re committed to keeping them open and flourishing. You can support our small businesses when you:

  • Provide grants, business loans, or services to strengthen neighboring small businesses that may be impacted by development, including storefront improvement projects, commercial lease review, accounting, and business planning; and
  • Establish a robust local vendor contracting program that ensures particularly local small minority- and women-owned businesses are able to benefit from contracting opportunities at HQ2.

3. Accountability & Transparency


Typically, these kinds of business development deals are negotiated in secret, with public comment  only happening at the very end of the process. We believe that, as a 21st century technology company, you should be fully committed to open-sourcing the process of reaching a deal with our whole community. Here are some examples of what we expect to see:

Engaging our community   [show more / less]
  • Prior to local project approvals, you’ll engage in meaningful negotiation with community stakeholders regarding community benefits and measures to mitigate project impacts;
  • You will enter into a legally-binding Community Benefits Agreement and other legally binding agreements with community stakeholders; and
  • In your hiring practices, you’ll respect local labor policies and legislation, and not fight to have them pre-empted by the state.

Creating an open process   [show more / less]
  • You’ll submit regular reports on Community Benefits to an oversight committee on which community stakeholders are directly represented;
  • Prior to local project approvals, you’ll provide the public with a detailed, verified Community Impact Report regarding the project’s impacts on jobs, small businesses, housing, the treasury, the environment and public health; and
  • You’ll provide the public with ongoing, verified information regarding hiring, wages and provision of community benefits throughout the life of the project, not just for your direct employees, but for contractors, sub-contractors and temp agencies.


Let's talk. We look forward to working with you to build a headquarters that works for everyone in our communities.




Action Center on Race and the Economy

American Independent Business Alliance

Center for Community Change

The Center for Popular Democracy

Democracy at Work Institute

Food and Water Watch


Good Jobs First

In the Public Interest

Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Interfaith Worker Justice

Jobs with Justice

National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (CAPACD)

Organization United for Respect 

People's Action

Partnership for Working Families

United for a Fair Economy

US Federation of Worker Cooperatives

Working Families Party



Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy (CASE)



Alliance for Community Transit - LA

Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, Southern California

California Work & Family Coalition

Center on Policy Initiatives

Contra Costa AFL-CIO Labor Council

East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE)

Global Exchange

Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco

Jobs with Justice San Francisco

LA Forward

Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE)

Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD)

The Real Community Coalition (RCC), East Palo Alto


Warehouse Worker Resource Center

Working Partnerships USA



Colorado Center on Law and Policy

Colorado Jobs With Justice

United for a New Economy



Atlanta Jobs With Justice

Georgia Stand-Up



Brighton Park Neighborhood Council

Chicago Jobs with Justice

Chicago Teachers Union 

Grassroots Collaborative

Illinois Economic Policy Institute

Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice

One Northside

SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana

UE Western Region

United Working Families

Warehouse Workers for Justice



Central Indiana Jobs with Justice

St. Joseph Valley Project



Jobs with Justice Kentucky

Sierra Club Beyond Coal



New Orleans Worker Center for Racial Justice



Common Cause Maryland


City Life/Vida Urbana

Jobs for Somerville (a Committee of the Somerville Community Corporation)

Massachusetts Jobs with Justice



Detroit People's Platform

The Equitable Detroit Coalition

Great Lakes Bioneers

North End Woodward Community Coalition

Southeast Michigan Jobs with Justice/Unity Campaign

The Storehouse of Hope



Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL)


SEIU Local 26

TakeAction Minnesota



Missouri Jobs With Justice


New Jersey

New Jersey Policy Perspective

New Jersey Working Families Alliance

New York

ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York

Fiscal Policy Institute

Long Island Jobs with Justice

Make the Road New York

New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health

New York Communities for Change

Partnership for the Public Good, Buffalo

Pratt Center for Community Development

Reinvent Albany

Tompkins County Workers' Center



North Carolina

Down Home North Carolina

North Carolina Justice Center

North Carolina League of Conservation Voters

Working America North Carolina



Cleveland Jobs with Justice

Lorain County Forward

Policy Matters Ohio

Toledo Jobs with Justice



Central Oregon Jobs with Justice

OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon

SEIU Local 49



215 People's Alliance

Alliance for Police Accountability, Pittsburgh (APA)

From Victory Community Development Corporation

Glen Hazel Community Resident Management Corporation

Jacob Klein Music (Pittsburgh)

Make the Road Pennsylvania 

One Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN)

Philadelphia Jobs with Justice

Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance

Pittsburgh United


Snack Like a Local (Philadelphia)

UrbanKind Institute

Women's Community Revitalization Project



Central Labor Council of Nashville/Middle TN

Jobs with Justice East Tennessee

Stand Up Nashville



Texas Organizing Project



Utah Housing Coalition



Peace & Justice Center


Our Revolution Arlington


All in for Washington

Economic Opportunity Institute

InterIm Community Development Association

Puget Sound Sage

South Sound Jobs With Justice

Tenants Union of Washington State


Washington, DC

DC Jobs with Justice

Washington Interfaith Network


Toronto, Ontario

Parkdale Activity - Recreation Centre (PARC)




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Resources for Reporters and Researchers 

April 2018

TO: News Media Outlets in Amazon’s HQ2 Finalist Localities

RE: Ideas for Covering Amazon’s HQ2 and How It Would Impact Your City

Sources: Greg LeRoy, Good Jobs First goodjobs@goodjobsfirst.org
Stacy Mitchell, Institute for Local Self-Reliance smitchell@ilsr.org

We write to suggest angles and issues about Amazon’s HQ2 project that may merit additional reporting. This is a rare opportunity for civic journalism about complex issues that have attracted high public interest.

Are the incentives being offered actually going to be a factor in whether Amazon chooses to locate here? Or would they be a windfall? Because state and local taxes are such small cost factors, evidence shows that incentives rarely drive location decisions. And in the case of a corporate headquarters, the executive talent pool is especially important. It’s an opportunity to explore the kinds of corporate headquarters your metro area already has, and the graduate programs of your local universities in engineering, law, accounting, marketing and other professions.

Who owns the parcel(s) of land proposed for use in the bid? What is known about that developer, its track record and political connections? How well or poorly has it performed in past projects? Has it delivered, or not, on past incentive awards? How much money have the company and/or its executives given to the campaigns of elected officials? (See WAMU’s “Deals for Developers, Cash for Campaigns” series as an investigative template.)

How would Amazon’s HQ2 affect existing local businesses and change the character of the city? Rising commercial rents is a top challenge for locally owned businesses and local entrepreneurs trying to start businesses. How much will HQ2 affect commercial rents? Will it cause substantial rent increases that displace locally owned businesses, especially those that serve everyday neighborhood needs? How will Amazon’s large footprint alter the character of the city? To what degree will the city’s streetscape come to serve the needs of Amazon employees, perhaps to the detriment of other residents?

Will the project fuel gentrification and displacement? What is the current affordability of housing in the project footprint and surrounding neighborhoods? What would be the likely impact on them of tens of thousands of highly-paid executive jobs arriving? Does the bid specify ways to cushion that effect?

Would HQ2 help the city’s low income families or exacerbate inequality? Many of the jobs created by HQ2 will go to newcomers who have specific skills, not to current local residents. Given this, how will HQ2 impact low-income families? If it doesn’t create good jobs for these families, are they likely to be worse off overall, due to Amazon’s impact on their cost of living, particularly housing costs? Will this exacerbate inequality? How is the city proposing to address this?

How much in tax breaks would Amazon automatically quality for? Discretionary, or deal-specific incentive offers, are getting a lot of attention. But in most states, the pre-existing “as of right” tax breaks that flow automatically, or virtually automatically, to any company that performs an eligible activity, may constitute the bigger dollar value. These include investment tax credits and hiring tax credits (which typically reduce or eliminate corporate income tax liabilities) and sales tax exemptions on new building materials and equipment.

Does the bid provide taxpayer safeguards? Are there money-back “clawback” provisions? Job creation, job retention and wage and benefit requirements? Would any incentives require special legislative enactment? Which public services would be affected by the foregone revenue? If the offer involves the area’s infrastructure budget, what share would it take?

Are there community benefits? That is, are there specific, binding obligations that the company would engage with incumbent city residents to ensure HQ2 would benefit them as well? (These could include local hiring, affordable housing support, local sourcing, university partnerships, etc.)


Public Auction, Private Dealings: Will Amazon’s HQ2 Veer to Secrecy Create A Missed Opportunity for Inclusive, Accountable Development?

Washington, DC-As Amazon.com conducts site visits at the 20 finalist locations for its second headquarters, or HQ2 project, little is known about most of those localities' first-round bids, and almost nothing at all is known about six. Even though billions of dollars are at stake, few states and cities have fully disclosed their bids. Even those that have partially disclosed have not revealed the details of their tax-break offers and their costs to taxpayers.

That is the main finding of a study released today by Good Jobs First. "PublicAuction, Private Dealings: Will Amazon's HQ2 Veer to Secrecy Create A Missed Opportunity for Inclusive, Accountable Development?" can be found at  www.goodjobsfirst.org.


What Communities are Saying about Amazon HQ2


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