State activist group ProgressNow has called on Coloradans to boycott online retail giant Amazon.com as a response to news the company fired its Colorado affiliates this week. ProgressNow Executive Director Bobby Clark told the Colorado Independent the boycott was meant to “remind people they have online and offline alternatives.” He said the boycott (or buycott) idea had been “well received” among lawmakers at the capitol, many of whom were “mad as hell” about the affiliate firings.
Amazon acted in the wake of new legislation that requires digital businesses like Amazon to ask customers to pay state sales tax. For the last 24 hours, observers have been speculating on the action, which appeared on first blush to be a sideways response to the new tax because Amazon was still committed to doing business with Colorado residents. Some have speculated, however, that in severing ties with affiliates, Amazon is setting up a legal defense in which it can argue it has no presence in the state and therefore owes the state no taxes.
From the ProgressNow release:
“Local companies like the Tattered Cover Bookstore and Ultimate Electronics, who employ thousands of Colorado residents and pay their sales taxes back into the community, have suffered greatly while Amazon.com profited from an unfair advantage. With millions of dollars in badly-needed revenue set to make its way into the budgets for Colorado’s schools, roads, and health care, standing behind Main Street over online behemoths like Amazon.com is an easy choice.
“ProgressNow Colorado is calling for its hundreds of thousands of Colorado members, and everyone else in the state, to pledge to shop elsewhere until Amazon.com stops using Coloradans as pawns.”
Clark said that his organization is asking supporters to continue the boycott until Amazon re-hires its affiliates and abides by the new tax law.
Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader John Morse called the move by Amazon unconscionable retaliation. Other Democratic leaders, including Boulder’s Sen. Rollie Heath, who sponsored the new law, decried the move as the kind of corporate bullying Americans have witnessed undercut democratic functioning all year, from historic insurance industry lobbying against health reform to bailed out Wall Street finance firms doling out taxpayer cash to executives in seven-digit bonuses and to lawmakers ready to work against increasing consumer protections.
“After profiting from millions of dollars in direct sales to Colorado residents for years, Amazon.com is determined to protect their unfair advantage over local brick-and-mortar retailers,” said ProgressNow’s Clark in a release on the boycott. “This year, the Colorado legislature passed a law to enforce collection of taxes for online purchases, leveling the playing field between massive online merchants like Amazon.com and local retailers who pay their taxes and employ Coloradans.
“Rather than comply with the law… they chose to ‘make an example’ of our state, and unfairly punish their own business associates for political gain… Enough is enough: Coloradans should shop elsewhere until Amazon comes to its senses.”