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Bernie Sanders Introduces the BEZOS Act, Slamming Amazon’s Wages

Bernie Sanders Introduces the BEZOS Act, Slamming Amazon’s Wages
ALEX EDELMAN VIA GETTY IMAGES

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Ro Khanna on Wednesday introduced a bill to the Senate — the “Stop BEZOS Act” — that would require large employers such as Amazon and Walmart to reimburse the government for food stamps (SNAP), public housing, Medicaid and other federal assistance received by their workers, according to the Washington Post and CNBC.

For example, if an Amazon worker received $2,000 in food stamps, Amazon would be taxed $2,000 to cover that cost.

The bill, pointedly called the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act (Stop BEZOS Act), is aimed at shaming companies like Amazon and Walmart, whose workers supposedly rely on public assistance.

“Our legislation gives large, profitable employers a choice: Pay workers a living wage or pay for the public assistance programs their low-wage employees are forced to depend upon,” Sanders said of the proposed law.

Sanders has long targeted Amazon, contrasting the wealth of CEO Jeff Bezos with reports that Amazon warehouse workers are paid less than industry averages and rely on food stamps.

Bezos is the richest man in the world, and Amazon just topped the $1 trillion market value.

The bill follows similar legislation introduced in Congress last summer by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.).

In a blog dated August 29, Amazon responded to the impending legislation:

Senator Sanders continues to make inaccurate and misleading accusations against Amazon.

We have been in regular contact with his office and have offered several opportunities for Senator Sanders and his team to tour one of our fulfillment centers (FCs). To date he has still not seen an FC for himself.

Instead, Senator Sanders continues to spread misleading statements about pay and benefits. Amazon is proud to have created over 130,000 new jobs last year alone. In the U.S., 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. (Updated 9:44 p.m., Aug. 29: Sen. Sanders claims that Amazon’s median U.S. salary is $28,446, despite the fact that we’ve made clear that this number is global and includes part-time employees. In fact, the median U.S. salary for full-time Amazon employees is $34,123). We encourage anyone to compare our pay and benefits to other retailers.

Senator Sanders’ references to SNAP, which hasn’t been called “food stamps” for several years, are also misleading because they include people who only worked for Amazon for a short period of time and/or chose to work part-time — both of these groups would almost certainly qualify for SNAP.

In addition to highly competitive wages and a climate controlled, safe workplace, Amazon provides employees with a comprehensive benefit package including health insurance, disability insurance, retirement savings plans, and company stock. The company also offers up to 20 weeks of paid leave and innovative benefits such as LeaveShare and RampBack, which give new parents flexibility with their growing families. With LeaveShare, employees share their Amazon paid leave with their spouse or domestic partner if their employer does not offer paid leave. RampBack gives new moms additional control over the pace at which they return to work. Just as with Amazon’s health care plan, these benefits are egalitarian – they are the same for fulfillment center and customer service employees as they are for Amazon’s most senior executives.

While Senator Sanders plays politics and makes misleading accusations, we are expending real money and effort upskilling people with our Career Choice program. Career Choice is an innovative benefit that pre-pays 95 percent of tuition, fees and textbooks (up to $12,000) for courses related to in-demand fields, regardless of whether they’re related to skills for jobs at Amazon or not. We have over 16,000 employees who have participated in Career Choice.

No one knows what it’s like to work in one of our fulfillment centers better than the skilled and dedicated people who do it every day. That’s why we are encouraging all employees to take Senator Sanders up on his request and respond with their actual experience (Sanders’ form only asks for negative experiences — … but we hope he is also interested in positive ones).

In a separate blog dated September 5, Amazon employees responded to Senator Sanders’ question about what it is really like to work in an Amazon fulfillment center. Some of those responses can be viewed here.

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Discussion (1 comments)

    Judi Ghedini September 7, 2018 / 5:49 pm

    I was a customer of Amazon since they began. Customer service is a language that the firm cannot remember.

    I recently purchased a new condo & was looking for EVERYTHING to go into new kitchen, bathrooms, etc.

    My computer has been hacked & could no longer put financial info online. Too bad – so sad was their reaction after hours of trying to work the situation out. Take a chance & put your credit card info online or forget it.

    I called the corporate office and the receptionist/operator refused to put me through to Bezo’s assistant, the president’s assistant, and so on. I told her it made me wonder why they employed her to connect people if she couldn’t put anyone through to anyone!

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