Amazon and Sanders Butt Heads as Senator Prepares 100 Percent Tax Bill

Amazon and Sanders Butt Heads as Senator Prepares 100 Percent Tax Bill
(Press Association via AP Images)

WASHINGTON — Amazon hit back at Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) call for employees of the retail giant to submit stories of poor working conditions, charging in a company blog post that the senator “continues to make inaccurate and misleading accusations against Amazon.”

In May, Sanders posted a video online highlighting the company’s wealth in juxtaposition to workers’ salaries, including news clips that detailed CEO Jeff Bezos hauling in within the span of 10 seconds what the average Amazon employee makes in a year as well as the company spending $13 million on lobbying last year.

“Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ wealth increases by $275 million every single day,” Sanders wrote along with the video. “Meanwhile, Amazon workers have to rely on food stamps and public assistance just to survive.”

Last week, Sanders sent out an email to supporters asking them to sign a petition that declares in part, “I don’t believe that ordinary Americans should be subsidizing the wealthiest person in the world because you pay your employees inadequate wages.”

By Friday, Sanders said he had collected more than 100,000 signatures and would introduce legislation in September “to demand that Mr. Bezos and other billionaires get off welfare and start paying their workers a living wage.”

That bill would require companies to pay, in the form of a 100 percent tax, for any public assistance programs used by their lower-wage workers

“While Mr. Bezos is the most egregious example, the Walton family of Walmart and many other billionaire-owned large and profitable companies also enrich themselves off taxpayer assistance while paying their workers poverty-level wages,” he said.

Amazon said its employees should send their stories to Sanders as the senator requested. “We are encouraging all employees to take Senator Sanders up on his request and respond with their actual experience,” the company wrote in its blog post.

The online giant said that in the United States “the average hourly wage for a full-time associate in our fulfillment centers, including cash, stock, and incentive bonuses, is over $15/hour before overtime.”

While Sanders publicly accepted, after his earlier criticism, Amazon’s offer to come tour one of their fulfillment centers, the company said the senator still has not visited despite “several opportunities” offered to his staff.

“Amazon has been less than forthcoming with information about their employment practices. What we do know is that Amazon’s median employee pay is only $28,446 — 9 percent less than the industry average and well below what constitutes a living wage in the United States,” Sanders fired back today. “Further, we believe that many of Amazon’s workers are employed by temporary staffing agencies and contractors and make even less than the median Amazon employee.”

“Unfortunately, this is all the information we have because Amazon refuses to make public complete information about the wages and benefits provided by the contractors it uses to run fulfillment centers across the country,” he added. “If Amazon is so proud of the way it treats its workers, it should make public the number of people it hires through temporary staffing agencies like Integrity Staffing Solutions and make public the hourly rate and benefits those workers earn.”

Sanders said another concern is working conditions in light of seven Amazon workers dying on the job since 2013, including three last year within a five-week span.

The senator said he tried to visit an Amazon center in Wisconsin last month but was told the company couldn’t accommodate him, and said he expects to visit the fulfillment center in Chester, Va., next month. “We have heard from workers there, including Navy veteran Seth King, about unsafe working conditions and at least one person has reportedly died at the warehouse,” Sanders said.