issue 149

Boycott news from Ethical Consumer magazine issue 149 July/August 2014.


On this page:

Amazon updates

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions update

Boycott of Dorchester Hotels


Jeff Bezos - "worlds worst boss"



Amazon updates


Amazon’s Jeff Bezos wins World’s  Worst Boss poll

In May Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, was announced the winner of the World’s Worst Boss award at the 3rd International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) World Congress in Berlin. The announcement was made as the ITUC, which represents 180 million workers, met in Berlin with over 1500 delegates from 161 countries.

“Jeff Bezos represents the inhumanity of employers who are promoting the American corporate model. The message to big business is back off, you are not going to mistreat workers.” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC.

She added, “Workers at Amazon distribution centres are required to wear digital arm-mounted terminals that monitor their every move. There are no agreed protocols about breaks and speed, and a culture of bullying and harassment is rife. Staff are reprimanded just for speaking to one another or even pausing to catch their breath... The company makes no secret that within just a few years they will replace workers with robots.”


Sales tax hits Amazon in US

New data from the USA is beginning to confirm what many thought, that Amazon’s business model and impressive growth is based to a large extent on tax avoidance. Its quarterly results from the first period of 2014 showed a slow down in US profits and analysts believe this is due to more states collecting sales tax, which increases the price of Amazon’s products and reduces their advantage over rivals.

“The imposition of state sales taxes in major markets such as California, Texas, and Pennsylvania may have caused a growth drag,” said market analyst Mark Mahaney. The Chicago Business Tribune says that Amazon’s sales growth is slowing by around 15% year on year.1

A 245,000 household study by Ohio State University found that in states where sales tax is included in the cost of goods, household spending on Amazon’s website fell by about 10%. The drop was more marked for purchases exceeding $300, when Amazon sales fell by 24%.3



Israeli Boycotts, Divestment & Sanctions movement update


State water company loses further contract


In May Lisbon’s water company EPAL terminated a technology exchange deal with Israeli state water company Mekorot following protests over Mekorot’s role in Israel’s ‘water apartheid’ in Palestine.

The announcement came at the end of an international week against Mekorot that saw demonstrations and campaign actions take place across at least 12 countries. 

A statement released by the coalition of Portuguese organisations that campaigned against Mekorot said that the decision will “strengthen and encourage the efforts of solidarity movements that work towards the international isolation of Israel because of its policies of ethnic cleansing, occupation and colonization”.

According to campaigners, Mekorot illegally appropriates Palestinian water, diverting it to illegal Israeli settlements and towns inside Israel and causing severe water shortages for Palestinian communities in the West Bank. The state-owned company is the key body responsible for implementing discriminatory water polices that Amnesty International has accused Israel of implementing “as a means of expulsion”.

The EPAL announcement follows a similar decision by Dutch national water carrier Vitens and municipal authorities in Buenos Aires, where Mekorot lost out on a $170m contract with Argentinian authorities earlier this year.


Ethical Consumer has now joined the BDS movement - read more >



Dorchester Hotel boycott

A group of A-list celebrities has called for a boycott of the Dorchester Collection 5-star hotels over its owner’s links to the rulers of Brunei. The sultanate of Brunei recently imposed a series of harsh new Islamic laws that increase the punishment for homosexuality from a 10-year prison sentence to death by stoning. 

The hotel group, owned by an arm of Brunei’s finance ministry, runs 10 exclusive hotels around the world including three in Britain: 45 Park Lane, the Dorchester and Coworth Park. It is now the focus of a worldwide boycott led by several prominent celebrities.

Sir Richard Branson, Stephen Fry and the American chat-show hosts Ellen DeGeneres and Jay Leno have all given their support to the boycott. 

A spokeswoman for the Dorchester Collection told the Telegraph newspaper that the boycott had led to a drop in bookings. “In LA, the boycott is affecting our events... We have had several cancellations since April 17 which has resulted in lost revenue.” 2