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Amazon's Plans to Methodically Push Interests in California Revealed in Leaked Memo

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A view of an airport with a hangar in the background and two trucks in the foreground with "Amazon Prime" written on them.
Amazon Prime branded trucks and trailers are seen at the Ontario International Airport in Ontario, California, on May 9, 2022. (hapabapa/Getty Images)

An internal Amazon memo has provided a stark look at the company’s carefully laid out plans to grow its influence in Southern California through a plethora of efforts that include burnishing its reputation through charity work and pushing back against “labor agitation” from the Teamsters and other groups.

The eight-page document — titled “Community Engagement Plan” for 2024 — provides a rare glimpse into how one of America’s biggest companies executes its public relations objectives and attempts to curtail reputational harm stemming from criticisms of its business. It also illustrates how Amazon aims to methodically court local politicians and community groups to push its interests in a region where local moratoriums on warehouse development could hamper it, and it is facing resistance from environmental and labor activists.

The memo was leaked to the nonprofit labor organization Warehouse Worker Resource Center and posted online this week. The Associated Press independently verified its authenticity.


When reached for comment, Amazon did not dispute the document’s authenticity. But it said in a prepared statement it was proud of its philanthropic efforts.

“Partnerships with community leaders and stakeholders help guide how Amazon gives back,” Amazon spokesperson Jennifer Flagg said. “Through employee volunteerism or our charitable donations, it is always Amazon’s intention to help support the communities where we work in a way that is most responsive to the needs of that community.”

In the memo, Amazon said its top public-policy priority in Southern California is addressing “labor agitation that uses false narratives and incorrect information to affect public opinion and impact public policy.”

Earlier this year, the Teamsters unionized an Amazon-contracted delivery firm in the city of Palmdale and subsequently supported protests around company warehouses after Amazon refused to come to the bargaining table. Last year, dozens of Amazon workers at a company air hub in San Bernardino, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, walked off the job to demand safety improvements and higher pay.

Workers raised those same issues at a company warehouse in New York City, where employees voted to unionize with the Amazon Labor Union in 2022. The e-commerce giant has been challenging the union’s win for over a year in a case that the National Labor Relations Board is still adjudicating.

The Amazon memo also said the Seattle-based company faces “significant reputational challenges” in Southern California, where it’s “perceived to build facilities in predominantly communities of color and poverty, negatively impacting their health.”

The Inland Empire, a region in Southern California that Amazon discusses in the document, has seen a boom in warehouse development over the past few decades. But there’s also been a groundswell of local opposition to new warehouses, with multiple municipalities enacting development moratoriums.

In January, dozens of environmental and community groups sent a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom urging him to declare a one-to-two-year moratorium on new warehouses in the area, arguing a temporary pause was necessary to address the “gaps in current legislation” that allows for pollution and congestion.

In the memo outlining Amazon’s goals for next year, the company said it plans to “earn the trust” of community groups and nonprofits, such as the San Bernardino Valley College Foundation, Children’s Fund, and Feeding America, to push back against state bills “that will continue to threaten the region’s economy, and Amazon’s interests.” The two bills cited include state legislation that, if passed, would prohibit companies from building large warehouses within 1,000 feet of private homes, apartments, schools, daycares and other facilities.

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