“We have one person whose wealth is increasing by $250 million every single day, while he pays thousands of his workers wages that are so low that they are forced to go on food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing,” complained Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in reference to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
Sanders’s criticism of Bezos, which came during a Labor Day speech at an AFL-CIO event in Vermont, is part of his ongoing tirade on income inequality.
“The reality is that the average American worker is still seeing a decline in his and her wages,” continued Sanders. “People continue to work longer hours for low wages. Here in Vermont, folks are working two or three jobs to put food not the table and pay bills.”
Earlier in the week, Sanders claimed Amazon’s employees were paid “well below” a living wage. “Bottom line: the taxpayers of this country should not have to subsidize employees at a company owned by Mr. Bezos who is worth $155 billion. That is absurd.”
Sanders’s complaints about Amazon are ironic in light of his push to expand the same safety net programs he insists shouldn’t be needed by Amazon employees.
Amazon responded to Sanders by insisting its employees receive a livable wage and are not forced to sign up for welfare programs. According to independent salary websites, the average Amazon warehouse worker earns $13 per hour (about the same as an entry-level employee at Walmart). Amazon says its median pay for US workers is $34,123 and that any employees receiving federal assistance do so because they only work part-time.
“Senator Sanders continues to spread misleading statements about pay and benefits,” wrote Amazon in a blog post. “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. We encourage anyone to compare our pay and benefits to other retailers.”
Amazon’s response to Sanders is surprising considering its relative silence in the face of similar criticisms from President Trump.
The response could stem from a fear that Sanders’s rhetoric will turn shoppers against the company – or will drum up support for legislation that would harm its business.
In the meantime, Sanders is working on a bill that would require large corporations to cover the cost of any federal assistance received by its employees.