On March 3, Amazon announced a partnership with the University of Connecticut and other colleges in the state and region which expands an existing Amazon program called Career Choice. This program provides free tuition to full-time Amazon employees, and half tuition to part-time employees once they have worked with the company for 90 days, allowing employees to take classes at partner universities towards advanced certification and degrees, so long as they continue to work with the corporation.
Companies do not contribute to employee education for selfless reasons. As found in a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, employees often rely on tuition programs for years while they remain at the company, lowering turnover rates and lowering the cost of hiring. Furthermore, tuition programs raise the overall productivity, qualification and credentials of a company’s employees, which assists them with program costs.
As helpful as their program appears, UConn should not support Amazon unnecessarily. In workplaces across the world, Amazon administers horrible working conditions. In warehouses, the company enforces a breakneck production speed which results in injury rates as much as 80% greater than competitors. They’ve been sued multiple times in the past for having no official policy on meal or bathroom breaks, and denying these to employees. Among these and other grievances, in 2021 there began an extensive unionization drive throughout the United States so that better conditions might be negotiated.
However, being one of the wealthiest and largest companies in history, Amazon has an extensive history of opposing the rights of their workers to unionize and bargain collectively, including firing workers suspected of organizing and creating extensive anti-union propaganda shown to their employees. The right to a union is strongly correlated with better working conditions and safety, far better employment security and even higher pay for union workers.
In addition to their employee treatment, Amazon is accused of monopolistic practices. They have been sued in the past over violation of antitrust laws, but the more important concerns are their astonishing rate of growth, size and reach across many industries and throughout the entire world. They already lead overnight shipping and e-retail industries by a great margin, and they could expand to control others, which would be unfavorable for all workers and consumers.
This program is not very costly for the University of Connecticut in any immediate way. Amazon will pay for the tuition of the employees they send here. Yet, by partnering with and therefore encouraging the behavior of such an unethical, monopolistic entity, we are not only harming the wellbeing of residents of the state of Connecticut and beyond, but we are also undermining the values we claim to hold regarding human rights, sustainability and even the value UConn is committed to providing in quality of employment for graduates.
This partnership indicates a convenient and prestigious connection with a large economic firm, but it does not represent the interests of our community, the wellbeing of our graduates or the improvement of society. UConn should only partner with individuals and organizations upholding the common good and advancing the values we claim to hold.