‘Babies Before Bezos’: Union protests $2 billion for Amazon bid amid child care cuts



Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in Seattle in a June 2014 file image. In a press release Thursday, Amazon announced it is planning to build a second, ‘equal’ headquarters in another city. (Ken Lambert/Seattle Times/TNS)

By John Byrne | Chicago Tribune

Carrying signs that read “Babies Before Bezos,” about two dozen union workers called on Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner to spend more on child care subsidies, citing $2 billion in incentives dangled to lure Amazon to Chicago.

The Service Employees International Healthcare union on Wednesday used the high-profile Amazon HQ2 bid to draw a distinction between what they said is elected officials’ willingness to empty the bank to court company CEO Jeff Bezos while many Chicago families can’t afford care for their young children.

“This decision by our elected officials to give $2 billion in city, state and county tax incentives to Amazon shows this is not a matter of money,” said Brynn Seibert, director of the union’s child care division, who added the money is there. “It’s a matter of choice.”


City spokeswoman Lauren Markowitz released a statement in response to the union’s complaints, highlighting Emanuel’s efforts to expand full-day preschool and other day care programs. She pointed out the mayor’s 2018 budget includes $1.8 million directed toward five early education sites.

SEIU Healthcare has been targeting the Republican governor’s funding of child care for months, including a July march to his Winnetka home to protest cuts to Illinois’ Child Care Assistance Program and to changes to training requirements for care workers.

Last month, the Rauner administration announced plans to tighten requirements for low-income families seeking help with child care, including more regular reviews of eligibility as part of a package of changes to the state budget that the administration said were necessary to balance it.

Chicago’s bid for Amazon to build its second headquarters in the city included what sources said was $1.32 billion in EDGE tax credits and $172.5 million in sales tax and utility tax exemptions from the state; $61.4 million in property tax discounts from Cook County and Chicago; and $450 million in to-be-determined infrastructure spending from the Illinois Department of Transportation, Chicago Department of Transportation, Chicago Transit Authority and other agencies.

Emanuel has said such incentives make sense for such a large corporate investment, which Amazon has said will include up to $5 billion toward building the headquarters and up to 50,000 jobs with an average annual salary of $100,000.


(c)2017 the Chicago Tribune


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