It may be time to set aside the long-running Trump-Bezos feud: a new war of words has erupted involving the world’s richest person, and this time his adversary is none other than the polar ideological opposite of President Trump – socialist Bernie Sanders.
On Wednesday, Amazon finally had enough of sitting quietly on the receiving end of a constant stream of criticisms and slammed accusations by Sen. Bernie Sanders, saying his repeated claims of poor worker conditions in its fulfillment centers are “inaccurate and misleading.”
“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,” the company said in a blog post Wednesday. “To date he has still not seen an FC for himself.”
Sanders has been dinging Amazon on Twitter and in public statements for months, although unlike Trump, he has been focusing on the working conditions for its lower-level employees, claiming the company doesn’t pay them a fair wage. He recently issued a call for Amazon employees to share their experiences in a form that asks, “Have you used public assistance, such as food stamps, Medicaid or subsidized housing, in order to make ends meet?”
Amazon’s public response was perplexing: the company has been largely silent amid repeated public attacks by President Donald Trump on the company and CEO Jeff Bezos, owner of the highly critical of the president, Washington Post. Trump has attacked Amazon for how the company pays taxes and its payments to the U.S. Postal Service.
Now Amazon is facing war on both fronts.
In its response, the company writes that “while Senator Sanders plays politics and makes misleading accusations, we are expending real money and effort upskilling people. 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.”
Undeterred, Sanders reiterated claims that Amazon workers are forced to rely on government programs. Amazon, he said in a statement to CNBC, “has been less than forthcoming with information about their employment practices.”
But the real issue here may be Bezos’ record wealth, usually a sensitive topic for any self-respective socialist. Sanders highlighted Bezos’ bank account and shared what he said are stories from former and current Amazon workers about low wages and poor conditions.
“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 said in the statement.
Here’s Amazon’s full response:
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. 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 — see below, but we hope he is also interested in positive ones).