As a harsh critic of Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, Sen. Bernie Sanders issued a statement Tuesday congratulating the world’s wealthiest man for increasing Amazon’s minimum wage to $15 for all full-time, part-time, temporary, and seasonal employees across the U.S. Last month, Bernie and Rep. Ro Khanna of California introduced legislation forcing major corporations to either pay workers a living wage or pay for the public assistance programs like Medicaid, food stamps, and public housing that their employees are forced to pay.
Working with Rep. Khanna, Sanders introduced the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies (BEZOS) Act last month in an attempt to end corporate welfare by establishing a 100 percent tax on corporations with 500 or more employees equal to the amount of federal benefits received by their low-wage workers. For example, if a worker at Amazon receives $2,000 in food stamps, the corporation would be taxed $2,000 to cover that cost.
On Tuesday, Amazon announced a minimum wage increase from $7.25 to $15 for all full-time, part-time, temporary (including those hired by agencies), and seasonal employees effective November 1. The wage increase will benefit more than 250,000 Amazon employees, as well as over 100,000 seasonal employees who will be hired at Amazon sites across the country this holiday.
“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon Founder and CEO. “We’re excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us.”
In response to the announcement, Sanders issued the following statement: “It is no secret that I have been a harsh critic of the wage and employment practices of Amazon and its owner Jeff Bezos. It has been my view that the middle class and working families of this country should not have to subsidize Mr. Bezos, the wealthiest person on Earth because many of his Amazon employees earned wages that were so low that they were forced to go on government programs like food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing.
“Today I want to give credit where credit is due. And I want to congratulate Mr. Bezos for doing exactly the right thing. Today he has raised the minimum wage at Amazon and Whole Foods effective next month. This applies not only to full-time workers, but part-time workers and temporary workers as well.
“Further, Mr. Bezos has indicated his support to raise the federal minimum wage. As the author of the $15 per hour minimum wage bill in the Senate, I look forward to working with him in this area.
“Let me thank the many hundreds of Amazon workers who contacted my office and the Fight for $15 movement which has been leading this effort for years.
“What Mr. Bezos has done today is not only enormously important for Amazon’s hundreds of thousands of employees, it could well be a shot heard around the world. Mr. Bezos and Amazon are helping to lead the way, but there is no reason why other profitable corporations in the fast food industry, the airlines and retail should not be following suit. Bottom line is that in the richest country in the history of the world, no full time employee should be living in poverty.”
Shortly afterwards, Bezos tweeted, “Thank you @SenSanders. We’re excited about this, and also hope others will join in.”
The fact of the matter is Bezos refused to act until his own Amazon employees reached out to the media and government officials to describe the terrible working conditions and low wages that the world’s wealthiest person inflicted upon them. By courageously speaking out and fighting back, hundreds of thousands of Amazon employees have taken a huge step forward for all workers across the country, and perhaps the world.