Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has been taking to social media to call out Amazon for how the retail giant treats its employees. Soon he plans to take this fight to Congress.
In August, Sanders announced that he plans to introduce legislation that would require large corporations to reimburse the government for federal assistance like food stamps, Medicaid, and public housing received by their employees. The legislation would impose a 100 percent tax on government benefits received by workers at companies with 500 or more employees. Sanders has said that he plans to introduce the bill on Wednesday, September 5.
In his tweets about the proposed legislation, Sanders specifically called out Amazon and its CEO, Jeff Bezos: “The working families of this country should not have to subsidize the wealthiest people in the United States of America like Jeff Bezos. It’s absurd and it’s what a rigged economy is all about.”
Another tweet, posted on August 21, highlights the disparity between Bezos and the average Amazon employee: “Count to ten. In those ten seconds, Jeff Bezos, the owner and founder of Amazon, just made more money than the median employee of Amazon makes in an entire year. In an entire year.”
Sanders also started a petition calling on Bezos to “start to pay your workers a living wage and improve working conditions at Amazon warehouses all across the country.” Additionally, he invited Amazon employees to share their experiences using public assistance or with demanding work via a form on the U.S. Senate website.
This is not the first time that Amazon has been called out for taking advantage of government funds. The American Booksellers Association and other trade associations have similarly criticized Amazon for pitting states and communities against each other in an attempt to garner lucrative tax incentives and subsidies to open warehouses or, more recently, Amazon’s planned second headquarters. And for more than a decade, ABA and others in the sales tax fairness fight worked to ensure that Amazon collected sales tax, the loss of which resulted in budget shortfalls for many states, hamstringing communities’ ability to fund schools, roads, and first responders.
Amazon responded to Sanders’ criticism in an August 29 blog post, in which it asserted that “Senator Sanders continues to make inaccurate and misleading accusations against Amazon.” The company claimed that it created more than 130,000 jobs last year, and that Sanders’ references to food stamps are “misleading because they include people who only worked for Amazon for a short period of time and/or chose to work part time.” Amazon also pointed out that Sanders’ form asks only for negative experiences in Amazon fulfillment centers, and encouraged its employees to respond to the form with their “actual experiences.”
Sanders has accepted Amazon’s invitation to visit a fulfillment center, and plans to visit the center in Chester, Virginia, in September.