Amazon

Bernie Sanders Has Named a Bill After Jeff Bezos

It's called the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies (BEZOS) Act.
Entrepreneur Staff
Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.
3 min read

This story originally published on Aug. 30, 2018.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is taking a closer look at how big corporations treat their workers, especially ones overseen by billionaires such as Amazon and Walmart. Here is what you need to know about the conflict between Jeff Bezos’s ecommerce empire and the senator who has built his platform on issues of economic equality.

Sanders’s inquiry

The senator from Vermont posted a form on his website asking Amazon employees to share their experience of working for the company, particularly if they used public assistance programs.

Sanders invoked Jeff Bezos in the explanation for why he was seeking these accounts, writing on his website, “Amazon is one of the wealthiest corporations in the world, and its owner, Jeff Bezos, is the richest man on the planet, worth over $155 billion. Despite this, Bezos continues to pay many thousands of his Amazon employees wages that are so low that they are forced to depend on taxpayer-funded programs.”

While Amazon encouraged its employees to “to tell Senator Sanders their truth,” the company’s leadership also took issue with Sanders’s characterization of the fulfillment center working conditions, saying that the senator was making “misleading accusations.”

Amazon’s response

In a blog post addressing the inquiry, the company claimed that Sanders had not toured a fulfillment center despite invitations to do so.

The post also included details about the company’s payment and benefits package, writing that the company created more than 130,000 jobs in the last year. ”Sanders claims that Amazon's median U.S. salary is $28,446, despite the fact that we've made clear that this number is global and includes part-time employees," the company wrote. "In fact, the median U.S. salary for full-time Amazon employees is $34,123. We encourage anyone to compare our pay and benefits to other retailers.”

The post also criticized Sanders’s use of the term “food stamps” when referring to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), in part because the lexicon had been phased out in recent years and because those who were participating in the program included “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.”

Sanders’s legislation

Sanders and Rep. Ro Khanna on Sept. 5 introduced a piece of legislation called Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies, or the Stop BEZOS Act.

At the top of a press conference with Khanna, Sanders referenced Bezos, noting his net worth of $168 billion and that since the start of 2018, the Amazon founder’s wealth has increased by about $260 million daily, and proceeded to read from some of responses his office solicited from former and current Amazon employees who were participating in programs such as SNAP, Medicaid and subsidized housing.

Sanders said the aim of the legislation was created to “have Mr. Bezos and the Walton family of Walmart and other billionaires get off of welfare and start paying their workers a living wage." He added, “Specifically, this bill would establish 100 percent tax on corporations with 500 or more employees equal to the amount of federal benefits received by their low-wage workers.”

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