Hating on Amazon, while the company continues to earn mountains of profit, has become a national pastime. Senator Bernie Sanders has been particularly passionate about his criticisms of the mega corporation, and is currently collecting testimonies from current and former Amazon employees. His criticism has been enough that, on Wednesday, the company put out a rebuttal to his jabs.
“Senator Sanders continues to make inaccurate and misleading accusations against Amazon,” the company wrote in a blog post, . “While Senator Sanders plays politics and makes misleading accusations, we are expending real money and effort upskilling people.”
Sanders has long been critical of the company and other Silicon Valley giants, such as Uber, for what he views as unfair labor practices, including physically demanding work, long hours, and low wages. In particular, he has repeatedly reminded the public that some Amazon employees earn so little that they have to rely on federal social programs such as food stamps to get by.
Amazon’s reply to Sanders’s criticisms missed a few key details. In the blog post, Amazon states that “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.”
This hourly wage is not only plumped up by including benefits as part of the wage, but also only refers to full-time employees. It also doesn’t address temporary workers, which make up about 40 percent of the US workforce.
Stacy Mitchell, a co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), a nonprofit that advocates for local economies, noted on Twitter that temp Amazon workers get paid well below $15 per hour, and “nearly all Amazon warehouse workers are short-term. Turnover for direct hires is 50 percent within a year.” Mitchell wrote a lengthy thread dismantling more of Amazon’s claims based on ILSR’s extensive research into the company’s practices.
Even Amazon’s attempt to quell concerns about its employees using the SNAP program fell flat. It starts by giving Sanders grief for referring to the program as food stamps, and then states that those numbers “include people who only worked for Amazon for a short period of time and/or chose to work part-time,” implying that part-time employees needing to rely on food stamps is reasonable.
Sanders used Amazon’s rebuttals to fuel his fire, tweeting on Wednesday that the company should “prove” its claims by “mak[ing] public the number of people you hire through temporary staffing agencies like Integrity Staffing Solutions and make public the hourly rate and benefits those workers earn.”
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