U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders escalated his attack on Amazon Wednesday, introducing the Stop BEZOS Act, a piece of legislation that would force big companies to cover the costs of federal assistance their employees receive.
Sanders, the former Democratic presidential hopeful who represents Vermont as an independent, has been publicly criticizing Amazon for its treatment of warehouse workers for days. The BEZOS — or Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies — is an effort to force employers to increase their wages or cover the cost of government aid programs like SNAP. Sanders, not one to mince words, chose an acronym that matches the name of Amazon’s chief executive.
The bill would establish a tax on corporations with 500 or more employees equal to the dollar amount of federal benefits those workers receive. If, for example, an employee receives $200 in food assistance, Amazon would be taxed $200 to cover those costs. Sanders’ bill isn’t likely to progress in the current political climate but it does bring added attention to warehouse worker conditions, which have come under scrutiny in recent months.
“The American people are tired of having to subsidize the wealthiest people in this country who are paying wages that are just so low that people can’t get by,” Sanders said at a press conference introducing the bill.
In response to mounting criticism from Sanders, Amazon posted an uncharacteristically lengthy blog post last week.
“Senator Sanders continues to spread misleading statements about pay and benefits,” the blog post says. “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.”
Last week, Sanders circulated a callout asking for Amazon warehouse workers to share their stories. The senator says hundreds of employees have written describing “terrible working conditions at Amazon warehouses and the low wages they are paid.”
Amazon responded with an email to employees asking them to share positive stories about their work for the company. The company has also launched a program that encourages employees to respond to criticism on Twitter with positive messages about their experiences.
Those definitely arent the conditions at my FC. I do a lot of jobs on the floor (replying to tweets is just another one of the jobs I do). Frankly though its not as hard as most people are making it to be. I dont ever see anyone overworked. Gotta say its a good way to be active.
— Caleb – Amazon FC Ambassador 📦 (@AmazonFCCaleb) August 23, 2018
“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,” Amazon said in the blog post.
Across the country, Amazon fulfillment centers power the Seattle company’s e-commerce operation. Conditions inside those warehouses have come under a magnifying glass in recent months.
“I’m proposing a bill that would have Mr. Bezos … and other billionaires get off of welfare and start paying their workers a living wage,” Sanders said Wednesday.