Bernie Sanders calling out Amazon for immoral business practices

Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos has grown his company from a basement operation to the largest online retail conglomerate of all-time – but at what cost?

Recently, Bezos and Co. have been under scrutiny from the public due to paying their low-level employees what has been described as unlivable wages amidst poor working conditions.

Amazon employee working conditionsWhile a struggle between Amazon and their low-level employees has gone on for a while, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders recently called out Amazon for immoral business practices and has urged Americans to do their shopping elsewhere.

After a struggle with the Disney Company saw Sanders and his supporters fight for raised wages for Disney Resort employees, Disney agreed to raise their base wages from $11 to $15 an hour, showing the kind of power Sanders and his following have.

On Monday Aug. 27, Sanders tweeted:

“New data shows one in three Amazon employees in Arizona are on food stamps. It is completely unacceptable that ordinary Americans should be subsidizing the wealthiest people in the world like Jeff Bezos when they pay their employees such inadequate wages.”

Soon after the tweet, Sanders began to take action, sending a email to his supporters in asking them to cease shopping at Amazon and sign a petition that will force the company to improve their working conditions across the board.

“I want to ask you to clear your mind for a moment and count to 10,” Sanders email reads. “In those 10 seconds, Jeff Bezos, the owner and founder of Amazon, made more money than the median employee of Amazon makes in an entire year. An entire year. Think about that.”

His email even went as far as accusing Bezos of possessing “greed which seems to have no end.”

Sanders petition has already received over 120,000 signatures with more surely on the way, and additionally asked Amazon employees who “used public assistance, such as food stamps, Medicaid or subsidized housing, in order to make ends meet,” to come forward and share their plight with the public.

With many Americans complaining about how their taxes go towards funding for food stamps and other benefits for low-income citizens, Sanders cannot understand why Americans would support a company that creates more need for these sorts of taxes.

“Thousands of Amazon employees are forced to rely on food stamps, Medicaid and public housing because their wages are too low,” Sanders’ email read. “And guess who pays for that? You do.”

Amazon’s Response to Sanders

While Amazon does not typically respond to backlash of this sort, the company appears to intend to fight back on Sanders’ claims, stating in Wednesday’s press release that his email was, “inaccurate and misleading.”

The company instead tried to highlight the positives, bringing up that they’ve created over 130,000 jobs in the last year.

They also encouraged employees who have had good experiences with the company to share their stories with Sanders and suggested that he is trying to impose some sort of witch hunt against them.

Additionally, the company highlighted the medical benefits their employers receive and corrected a statistic Sanders had mentioned, stating that the median Amazon worker makes upwards of $34,000 per year and not the roughly $28,000 mark that Sanders had suggested.

Employee Boycotts to Come?

While the aforementioned press release does well to correct many of Sanders statements, it does not suggest a way that Amazon can improve working conditions that are unfit for many.

Recently, Amazon Prime Day was large in the public eye and ended up as a boom for third-party sellers, but under the surface, Prime Day could be the beginning of some serious employee boycotts.

Seth King, a former Amazon employee in Chesterfield, Virginia, was one of those employed and told his story in July, suggesting that his time working for Amazon was “grueling” and “depressing,” and stating it was “the lowest point in my life.”

“You spend 10 hours on foot, there’s no windows in the place, and you’re not allowed to talk to people – there’s no interactions allowed,” King explained to Vox. “I got a sense in no time at all that they work people to death, or until they get too tired to keep working. After two months, I felt like I couldn’t work there and maintain a healthy state of mind.”

King suggested that his Amazon paycheck was not substantial enough to cover his basic bills, forcing him to take on a second job simply to stay out of debt.

With more employees coming to the forefront to join Sanders’ tour de force against the company, Amazon may experience more boycotts in the workplace.

If employees begin to boycott fulfillment centers, Amazon and its’ third-party sellers stand to lose a hefty sum of money and trust from the public.

Are Third-Party Sellers Affected by This?

If they are not affected right now they certainly will be in the future.

Whether or not Amazon does anything to change their work policies, stories like this cast the company in a negative light that stands to negatively impact sales for third-party sellers.

With over 120,000 having already signed Sanders petition, that all but eliminates 120,000 potential customers.

With this movement growing, less people may be inclined to renew their Amazon Prime subscriptions or to purchase items associated with Amazon.

Employees like King are coming forward in droves now that Sanders has given them the platform to do so, and an improvement in working conditions may go a long way towards appeasing some employees.

Amazon Employee Working Conditions

Although Amazon is a company that continues to push the envelope on innovative technology, they now must find innovative ways to properly compensate low-level workers that make Amazon a good place to work, not just an accessible one.

Third-party sellers typically do not have a say in the company’s policy making, but in this instance, sellers should try to get in contact with the company and urge them make some type of change.

With products sold by third-party sellers making up nearly half of all items distributed through Amazon, it may be time for sellers to unite and voice concerns to the company’s upper management.

Cyril Zackary Penn IV

Rosenbaum Famularo, PC

Cyril Zackary Penn IV is a graduate of Hofstra University with a Journalism degree from Sonoma, California. He is currently a freelance writer for the Napa Valley Register and formerly worked as a Staff Writer at Axcess Baseball and Sports Editor at Man of the Hour Magazine.

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