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No, Jeff Bezos doesn't want your public donations for Amazon workers

Some have said Amazon is asking for your money. But that's not the whole story.

Ben Fox Rubin Former senior reporter
Ben Fox Rubin was a senior reporter for CNET News in Manhattan, reporting on Amazon, e-commerce and mobile payments. He previously worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Ben Fox Rubin
2 min read
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Amazon says the donate button has to be there, for legal reasons.

Denis Charlet/Getty Images

Amazon is facing a minor backlash over the company asking for public donations to a relief fund it created for its contract and seasonal workers. Though the request may look bad, there's more to the story.

In early March, the world's largest e-commerce company announced the Amazon Relief Fund, which will offer grants of $400 to $5,000 to independent delivery companies, gig workers in the Amazon Flex program and seasonal employees. The company is offering grants worth up to two weeks of pay to workers who were diagnosed with coronavirus or face financial hardship amid the health crisis. Amazon kicked in $25 million of its own money to start the fund. So far, so good, right?

Initially, the company mentioned on the relief fund website that the fund relied on both individual donations and Amazon's money. The site also included a donate button. Amazon didn't publicly request donations except on this website, which Popular Information writer Judd Legum picked up on. The subsequent coverage sparked an uproar against the retail giant, which is worth nearly $1 trillion. 

Some of this offending language, though, is stock text used by the nonprofit Amazon is working with for its relief fund. You can find the same mention of companies relying "primarily on individual donations" on Cambell's page, Ikea's page, Target's page and plenty of others run by this nonprofit, called the Emergency Assistance Foundation.

Amazon has since changed the language on its site to clarify that public donations aren't being requested. The company says that because of the fund's structure, it's required to allow for individual donations. That donate button is still there, but now with more clarification that Amazon doesn't expect you to give. Fact-checking site Snopes has some good reporting on this issue, so please check it out.

"We are not and have not asked for donations and the Amazon Relief Fund has been funded by Amazon with an initial donation of $25 million," an Amazon spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "The structure to operate a fund like this, which hundreds of companies do through the same third-party, requires the program to be open to public contributions but we are not soliciting those contributions in any way."

Does this all mean Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the world's richest person, is asking the public to support his contract workers, as some headlines suggested? Technically yes, but that's not really what's happening here.

If you do want to donate directly to Amazon employees impacted by the coronavirus, Amazonians United New York City, a grassroots group of Amazon warehouse employees, has started a GoFundMe page to support these folks. That fund is being run separately from the company.