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USA: Senator Bernie Sanders calls on Amazon & Walmart to pay a living wage; includes company comments

US Senator Bernie Sanders is calling upon Amazon and Walmart to pay a living wage and improve working conditions. Senator Sanders has introduced legislation that would require large employers to fully cover the cost of food stamps, public housing, Medicaid and other federal assistance received by their employees.

A public response from Amazon is available below. We invited Walmart to respond; its response is below.

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20 September 2018

USA: Amazon drivers allege lack of overtime pay, missing wages & intimidation; inc. company statement

Author: Hayley Peterson, Business Insider

"Missing wages, grueling shifts, and bottles of urine: the disturbing accounts of Amazon delivery drivers may reveal the true cost of 'free' shipping," 11 Sept 2018

Business Insider spoke with 31 current or recently employed drivers about what it's like to deliver packages for Amazon... Amazon also uses FedEx, UPS, and USPS, as well as third-party courier companies that it calls delivery service partners... paying third-party companies to deliver packages is a cost-effective alternative to providing full employment... [D]rivers described a variety of alleged abuses, including lack of overtime pay, missing wages, intimidation, and favoritism. Drivers also described a physically demanding work environment in which, under strict time constraints, they felt pressured to drive at dangerously high speeds, blow stop signs, and skip meal and bathroom breaks... In response to this story, Amazon said that some challenges exist within its wide network of delivery providers and that it's working to improve the system... "While it is impossible to characterize a network of thousands of delivery drivers based on anecdotes, we do recognize small businesses sometimes need more support when scaling fast," Amazon spokeswoman Amanda Ip said in a statement to Business Insider. "We have worked with our partners, listened to their needs, and have implemented new programs to ensure small delivery businesses serving Amazon customers have the tools they need to deliver a great customer and employee experience."

... Others, including several labor experts, said they felt blame should be placed with Amazon, adding that the company was pressuring courier companies to deliver more, faster. They said Amazon was profiting off cheap labor that it doesn't have to protect because it's outsourcing the job to companies that it doesn't adequately supervise.

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5 September 2018

Bernie Sanders introduces legislation in the US Senate that would require large employers to pay the govt. for the federal assistance received by its workers

Author: Abha Bhattarai, The Washington Post

"Bernie Sanders introduces 'Stop Bezos Act' in the Senate," 5 September 2018

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Wednesday introduced a Senate bill — the "Stop BEZOS Act" — that would require large employers such as Amazon.com and Walmart to pay the government for food stamps, public housing, Medicaid and other federal assistance received by their workers. The bill's name is a dig at Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos and stands for “Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act.” It would establish a 100 percent tax on government benefits received by workers at companies with at least 500 employees. "In other words, the taxpayers of this country would no longer be subsidizing the wealthiest people in this country who are paying their workers inadequate wages," Sanders said... The proposed legislation comes one day after Amazon reached $1 trillion in market cap, a milestone that reinforces its position as one of the world's wealthiest companies... Amazon has fired back against Sanders and his claims that thousands of Amazon employees rely on federal benefits to make ends meet. Those figures are “inaccurate and misleading,” the company said last week, because they include temporary workers as well as those who choose to work part time... But some economists said they worried such measures may backfire by creating incentives for companies to avoid hiring workers who may be likely to collect federal benefits. "I'm afraid this is a solution that vilifies benefit recipients," said Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and former economic adviser to Vice President Joseph Biden. "It's not hard to imagine that employers would be wary of hiring someone who they think -- rightly or wrongly -- would invoke the tax."

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4 September 2018

Thousands of Amazon workers receive food stamps. Now Bernie Sanders wants the company to pay up

Author: Abha Bhattarai, The Washington Post

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will soon introduce legislation that would require large employers such as Amazon, Walmart and McDonald’s to fully cover the cost of food stamps, public housing, Medicaid and other federal assistance received by their employees. The goal, he says, is to force corporations to pay a living wage and curb about $150 billion in taxpayer dollars that go to funding federal assistance programs for low-wage workers each year... Labor groups say that gap is particularly pronounced at the nation’s largest — and most profitable — companies, including Walmart, which has about 2.2 million workers, and Amazon, which employs more than 575,000.

... “While Mr. Bezos is the most egregious example, the Walton family of Walmart and many other billionaire-owned profitable corporations also enrich themselves off taxpayer assistance while paying their workers poverty-level wages," Sanders said... Etches, of Amazon, said the company had created more than 130,000 new jobs “with highly competitive pay and full benefits" in the past year. She added that the average hourly wage for full-time workers in U.S. warehouses is more than $15 an hour when stock and incentive bonuses are factored in.

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3 September 2018

Amazon response to Senator Bernie Sanders

Author: Amazon

"Response to Senator Sanders," 29 August 2018

Senator Sanders continues to make inaccurate and misleading accusations against Amazon. 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. Instead, Senator Sanders continues to spread misleading statements about pay and benefits. Amazon is proud to have created over 130,000 new jobs last year alone. In the U.S., 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... Senator Sanders’ references to SNAP, which hasn’t been called “food stamps” for several years, are also misleading because they include 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. In addition to highly competitive wages and a climate controlled, safe workplace, Amazon provides employees with a comprehensive benefit package including health insurance, disability insurance, retirement savings plans, and company stock.

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Company response
3 September 2018

Walmart’s response re allegations by Senator Bernie Sanders that Walmart does not pay its workers in the US a living wage

Author: Walmart

At Walmart we’re proud to be an employer of opportunity for our associates. Since 2015, we’ve invested more than $2.7 billion in education, training and higher wages for our associates across the country. We offer a wide variety of career opportunities to people of every background, low barriers to entry and more full-time jobs than any private business in America.

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