By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams (8/28/18)
If you are one of the thousands of Amazon employees who has been forced to rely on federal assistance programs like food stamps and Medicaid to survive because CEO Jeff Bezos—the richest man in the world—refuses to pay a living wage or provide adequate benefits, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wants to hear your story.
Just days after announcing his plan to introduce legislation that would force Amazon and other large American corporations to “get off welfare” and pay a 100 percent tax on the public assistance their low-paid workers receive, Sanders put out a call on Monday for current or former Amazon employees to share their experiences working for one of the world’s largest retail giants, which has recently come under fire for its horrendous workplace practices.
“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,” Sanders declared on Monday. “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 such as food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing to survive.”
“Instead of paying people to tweet positive things about his corporation, Jeff Bezos needs to get off welfare, improve working conditions at Amazon’s warehouses, and pay his workers a living wage.”
“Are you a current or former Amazon employee? Please share your experiences working at Amazon,” Sanders wrote, providing this form where former and current Amazon employees can share their stories, with the option to do so anonymously. “Have you used public assistance, such as food stamps, Medicaid or subsidized housing, in order to make ends meet? Did you struggle with the demanding working conditions at Amazon? Please share your story.”
Sanders’ call for Amazon employees to share what it’s really like to work for the retail behemoth comes as the company is being accused of deploying an “army” of its employees on Twitter to defend its working conditions, benefits, and pay.
Amazon “ambassador” campaign
As the Guardian reported last week, at least 16 Amazon “ambassador” Twitter accounts “have sprouted up on Twitter in response to negative comments about Jeff Bezos’s wealth by Bernie Sanders, an alleged rise in health and safety complaints at Amazon facilities following Prime Day, and an April 2018 UK report that claimed Amazon employees skip bathroom breaks and urinate into bottles to ensure they make their quotas.”
While Amazon insists that actual employees are running these accounts and offering their honest assessment of the company, the Guardian notes that the accounts are all “remarkably uniform in look and tone” and “quite happy about how Amazon is treating them.”
Though Amazon frequently claims in response to criticism that it is a “fair and responsible employer” that offers “good jobs with highly competitive pay,” public data obtained by the New Food Economy and The Intercept show that as many as one in three Amazon employees in Arizona are forced to rely on food stamps to survive.
Reacting to the emergence of so-called “ambassador” accounts, Sanders wrote, “Instead of paying people to tweet positive things about his corporation, Jeff Bezos needs to get off welfare, improve working conditions at Amazon’s warehouses, and pay his workers a living wage.”
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(The Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2018. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )