I’m sure some will consider Washington Post writer Fredrick Kunkle some kind of a hero, a whistleblower and a truth-teller. He isn’t.
Kunkle authored a frontal attack on his boss, Post owner and Amazon gazillionaire Jeff Bezos, in another publication, the Huffington Post. He doesn’t allege any illegal activity or genuine abuse. he just doesn’t like the way Bezos runs his business. His screed, and it is a screed, comes down to a labor vs management, anti-capitalist, crypto-Marxist bill of particulars arguing that Bezos has so much money he should spread more of it around to his employees. Probably he should, but an employee who is being paid by such an individual is not ethically situated to make that accusation in public. This is disloyalty, and an intentional effort to harm his employer.
What seems to have set Kunkle off was Bezos asking his Twitter follower how he should expand his philanthropic efforts:
But as Bezos, whose worth now exceeds $80 billion, loosens his pockets, it’s important to put his charitable giving — and the philanthropy of the super-rich — into perspective: Many people worked hard for Bezos to help make him so rich, and he has a record of treating them poorly. Amazon’s history of dodging taxes, its mistreatment of workers, and its ruthlessness toward even the smallest competitors have been well documented. It put ambulances outside distribution centers rather than install adequate air conditioning. It broke up a union organizing effort by closing the call center and dismissing everyone who worked there. The New York Times documented its punishing work environment in a front-page exposé. The company’s actions, as Forbes put it, hark back to an earlier time when workers were treated as “replaceable cogs in the machine.”
“Replaceable cogs in the machine” means “if you don’t like it here, there are many equally qualified people who would love to have your job.” That is certainly true of the struggling newspaper industry. He calls his boss a tax dodger (if you avoid taxes using legally available means and laws, you aren’t “dodging” anything); ruthless, an abuser of workers, and most questionable of all, uses a New York Times exposé as gospel. The Times is the Post’s rival. Its hit pieces on Bezos are hardly objective; heck, almost nothing the Times writes is objective (nor the Post, for that matter.)
I’m not going to defend Bezos. Amazon is certainly a model of a company that performs a valuable service spectacularly reliably, affordably and innovatively. I’m not complaining. The idea of running reliable, affordable and innovative businesses is under attack of late, as the strange idea has gained currency that businesses should operate as public charities or welfare organizations. At this point in the crumbling journalism industry, running a high-quality newspaper (relatively speaking) at all is something of a public service; I think Bezos deserves credit for that.
As one of the three or four richest men in the world, could he be more generous with his employees? Sure. Is he obligated to pay them more than in his judgment will allow his business to thrive while also allowing him sufficient capital to take other business risks, provide more innovative services and create jobs for others? No, he’s not. It’s his money, and they are his businesses. That doesn’t mean that he is an ideal boss, as compassionate as he might be, or worthy of the love of his subordinates. All I know is that from my own experience, building any successful business is difficult, and keeping it so is even more difficult. There are always critics sniping at you from all sides.
Kunkle’s hit piece amounts to a public statement that his boss isn’t running the company the way he would, and insulting Bezos in the process. This is one step away from knocking on the boss’s door and spitting in his face.
What’s going on here? I can only guess. After all the publicity and public accolades James Damore received after he was fired by Google for pointing out how its diversity and political correctness policies were hurting the company, this may have been a calculated exit by the writer. Maybe he thought that after all the criticism Google received after firing Damore, he would get away with this. Damore’s internal e-mail, however, was not authored for another publication, and was a veritable nosegay compared to Kunkle’s assualt, which could be loosely translated as “my boss is a heartless, greedy, exploitative SOB.”
In short, Kunkle set out to embarrass and damage his employer. That’s not whistleblowing, and it’s not courageous. It is called “biting the hand that feeds you.” If he wanted to deliver his criticism ethically, he should have…
First, raise his concerns to Bezos in lieu of the public ambush. There is no indication in his article that Kunkle tried to work within the company before airing his complaints publicly. Second, assuming that Bezos showed no sign of changing his ways after Kunkle’s attempts, he should have resigned. Then he would be within ethical boundaries to explain why he left, as vividly as he chose. He would still be brave, or foolhardy, depending on your point of view. I would hire Damore in a second. A disgruntled employee who writes something like Kunkle’s indictment, however, can make someone else miserable, thanks.
I suspect many employer would regard him similarly.
Kunkle’s last paragraph is this:
“Bezos, as a lover and purveyor of books, is no doubt familiar with Honoré de Balzac’s saying that, “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.” In this case, it’s more like petty theft from the people who work for him. He owes them better.”
This is leftist grandstanding and virtue-signaling. Jeff Bezos owes his employees the terms, compensation and benefits they bargained for, the tools they need to do their jobs safely and well, and a company that is successful enough to provide them job security if they perform up to his expectations.
Kunkle owed Bezos the basic decency and loyalty of not attacking him while he is still writing him checks.
Pointer: Fox News