US senator and former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has invited Amazon employees to share their experiences working for the online retailer.
He has posted a form on his website asking current and former Amazon workers to share their stories online, with the choice of remaining anonymous.
In an accompanying statement, he asked: “Are you a current or former Amazon employee? Please share your experiences working at Amazon with Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“Have you used public assistance, such as food stamps, Medicaid or subsidised housing, in order to make ends meet? Did you struggle with the demanding working conditions at Amazon? Please share your story below.”
He pointed out the company’s status as one of the world’s wealthiest corporations, and that Jeff Bezos, its owner, is the richest man on the planet with a net worth of more than $155bn.
“Despite this,” he said, “Bezos continues to pay many thousands of his Amazon employees wages that are so low that they are forced to depend on taxpayer-funded programmes such as food stamps, Medicaid and subsidised housing to survive.”
Amazon responded via a statement, calling the accusations “inaccurate and misleading”. It said it paid its warehouse workers more than $15-per-hour on average, including “cash, stock and incentive bonuses”.
“We encourage anyone to compare our pay and benefits to other retailers,” it said.
The company also pointed out that food stamps were now called SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program], and said Sanders’ references to this were misleading because they included part-time and temporary employees. “Both of these groups would almost certainly qualify for SNAP,” it said.
“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.”
Sanders has previously criticised the company for being part of a “rigged economy” that oppressed its workers.
Amazon has also come under fire for paying its workers to tweet positive things about their jobs.
Twitter accounts, which turned out to be people who Amazon called “FC ambassadors,” were found to be tweeting positive messages about the company’s allegedly punishing warehouse working conditions.
An Amazon spokesperson confirmed the accounts were “employees who have experience working in our fulfilment centers”.
“The most important thing is that they’ve been here long enough to honestly share the facts based on personal experience.”
A 2018 report found that nearly a third of Amazon employees in the US state of Arizona in 2017 was on food stamps or lived with someone who was.
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