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Bernie Sanders Urges Amazon to Improve Wages, Working Conditions

Someone is accusing Amazon of being a “rigged economy,” and for once it’s not President Donald Trump.

Senator Bernie Sanders is circulating a petition urging Jeff Bezos, CEO of the online juggernaut and the richest man in modern history, to improve wages and working conditions at Amazon warehouses across the country.

“It is beyond absurd that you would make more money in 10 seconds than the median employee of Amazon makes in an entire year,” the Vermont Independent wrote on his website. “Meanwhile, thousands of Amazon employees are forced to rely on food stamps, Medicaid and public housing because their wages are too low.”

More than 100,000 people have signed the petition to date, per Sanders’s office.

In May, Sanders posted a video contrasting Bezos’s $143.3 billion fortune with Amazon’s alleged mistreatment of its warehouse workers, who are said to toil upward of 80 hours a week stowing, picking and packing with few respites until “they burn out and then they’re discarded.” These workers, many of whom labor seasonally or part-time, make an average of $13 an hour, according to Glassdoor.  

“This is what a rigged economy is all about,” the former presidential candidate said in a tweet accompanying the footage.

Public records obtained by the New Food Economy reveal that as many as one in three Amazon employees in Arizona rely on the government’s Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, to feed themselves. In Ohio and Pennsylvania, the number is roughly one in 10, the nonprofit news group said.

Sanders plans to introduce legislation on Sept. 5 that would require large companies, such as Amazon and Walmart, to completely cover the food stamps, public housing, Medicaid and other federal benefits received by their workers.

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If an Amazon employees receives $300 in food stamps, for example, Amazon would receive a $300 tax bill.

It’s a bid, Sanders said, to compel corporations to pay a living wage while curtailing the roughly $150 billion in taxpayer dollars that go toward federal assistance programs for low-wage earners every year.

Amazon has another adversary in Trump, who has accused the e-tailer in the past of paying “little to no” state taxes and making the U.S. postal service “dumber and poorer.”

Amazon was also criticized last week for dispatching at least 14 “fulfillment center ambassadors” to tweet about how well the e-tailer treats them. The talking points seem to follow the same boilerplate: Amazon pays a comfortable wage, Amazon provides healthcare coverage, Amazon will help pay for employees’ college tuition, Amazon lets workers take as many bathroom breaks as they want, Amazon’s warehouses are airy and have really nice fans.

The company insists the accounts are run by actual people and not bots created to automatically respond to—and neutralize—unfavorable comments on Twitter.

“The most important thing is that they’ve been here long enough to honestly share the facts based on personal experience,” a spokesman for Amazon said in a statement. “It’s important that we do a good job of educating people about the actual environment inside our fulfillment centers, and the FC ambassador program is a big part of that.”

Last month, Amazon posted a profit of $2.5 billion for the three months ending in June, marking its third consecutive quarter with more than $1 billion in earnings.