Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is donating $100 million to the Obama Foundation, the largest individual contribution the Chicago-based nonprofit organization has received to date, the foundation announced on Nov. 22.
Bezos, the second-richest person in the world, is making the multi-million dollar donation in honor of Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who died in 2020, and to “help expand the scope of programming that reaches emerging leaders in the United States and around the world,” Courtney Williams, a spokesperson for the foundation, said in a statement.
As part of the gift, Bezos has asked for the plaza at the Obama Presidential Center to be named the John Lewis Plaza. Lewis, a civil rights icon, died at the age of 80 on July 17, following a diagnosis of advanced pancreatic cancer in December 2019.
The longtime congressman from Atlanta was best known for the prominent role he had in the 1960s civil rights movement and actions to end legalized racial segregation in the United States.
“Freedom fighters deserve a special place in the pantheon of heroes, and I can’t think of a more fitting person to honor with this gift than John Lewis, a great American leader and a man of extraordinary decency and courage,” said Bezos. “I’m thrilled to support President and Mrs. Obama and their Foundation in its mission to train and inspire tomorrow’s leaders.”
With the gift from Bezos, the foundation will be able to “train a new generation of leaders through programs including the Girls Opportunity Alliance, My Brother’s Keeper,” and its “Global Leaders Program,” Obama Foundation CEO Valerie Jarrett said. The generous donation will also help in supporting the foundation’s Hometown Fund, which invests in the expansion of economic development opportunities for residents of Chicago’s South Side.
The Obama Presidential Center broke ground in September and is expected to be completed by 2025.
Bezos’s donation represents less than 0.1 percent of his estimated $210 billion fortune and comes shortly after he announced that his Day 1 Families Fund is pledging $96.2 million to support efforts to address the immediate needs of U.S. families experiencing homelessness.
The grants will provide support such as housing, food, clothing, and other resources to help families get back on their feet, the Amazon founder said on Instagram.
Bezos’s string of donations comes as more than 140,000 Amazon drivers are set to receive nearly $60 million in withheld tips after the company reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) earlier this month.
The funds will serve as reimbursement for tips that Amazon allegedly illegally withheld from drivers over a 2 1/2-year period between 2016 and 2019, the FTC said in a statement.
The FTC brought a lawsuit against Amazon and its subsidiary, Amazon Logistics, in 2021, claiming that the e-commerce company hadn’t fully paid tips to drivers in its Amazon Flex program and has instead been practicing a tip-stealing scheme and had kept drivers’ tips over a 2 1/2-year period, only stopping its behavior after it became aware of the FTC’s investigation in 2019.
Amazon reached a settlement with the FTC in February, agreeing to pay a total of $61,710,583, which represents the full amount that Amazon allegedly withheld from drivers.
The FTC said the settlement also “prohibits Amazon from misrepresenting any driver’s likely income or rate of pay, how much of their tips will be paid to them, as well as whether the amount paid by a customer is a tip.”
Amazon will now be unable to make any changes as to how their drivers’ tips are used as compensation without first consulting the driver and getting his or her full consent.