Amazon, in a rare political response, calls Bernie Sanders' claims of poor worker conditions 'inaccurate and misleading'

  • Sanders has been dinging Amazon on Twitter and in public statements for months, claiming the company doesn't pay its lower-level employees a fair wage.
  • It's a rare public response for Amazon. It has been largely silent amid repeated public attacks by President Donald Trump on the company and CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post.
Jeff Bezos
Shannon Stapleton | Reuters
Jeff Bezos

Amazon just rejected criticism by Sen. Bernie Sanders, saying his repeated claims of poor worker conditions in its fulfillment centers are "inaccurate and misleading."

"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," the company said in a blog post Wednesday. "To date he has still not seen an FC for himself."

Sanders has been dinging Amazon on Twitter and in public statements for months, claiming the company doesn't pay its lower-level employees a fair wage. He recently issued a call for Amazon employees to share their experiences in a form that asks, "Have you used public assistance, such as food stamps, Medicaid or subsidized housing, in order to make ends meet?"

It's something of a rare public response for Amazon. It has been largely silent amid repeated public attacks by President Donald Trump on the company and CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post. Trump has attacked Amazon for how the company pays taxes and its payments to the U.S. Postal Service.

"While Senator Sanders plays politics and makes misleading accusations, we are expending real money and effort upskilling people," Amazon said in the blog post. "No one knows what it's like to work in one of our fulfillment centers better than the skilled and dedicated people who do it every day. That's why we are encouraging all employees to take Senator Sanders up on his request and respond with their actual experience."

Sanders, in a statement sent to CNBC, reiterated claims that Amazon workers are forced to rely on government programs. Amazon, he said, "has been less than forthcoming with information about their employment practices."

He also pointed to Bezos' record wealth and shared what he said are stories from former and current Amazon workers about low wages and poor conditions.

"Bottom line: the taxpayers of this country should not have to subsidize employees at a company owned by Mr. Bezos who is worth $155 billion. That is absurd," Sanders said in the statement.

Here's Amazon's blog post:

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. We encourage anyone to compare our pay and benefits to other retailers.

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. The company also offers up to 20 weeks of paid leave and innovative benefits such as LeaveShare and RampBack, which give new parents flexibility with their growing families. With LeaveShare, employees share their Amazon paid leave with their spouse or domestic partner if their employer does not offer paid leave. RampBack gives new moms additional control over the pace at which they return to work. Just as with Amazon's health care plan, these benefits are egalitarian – they are the same for fulfillment center and customer service employees as they are for Amazon's most senior executives.

While Senator Sanders plays politics and makes misleading accusations, we are expending real money and effort upskilling people with our Career Choice program. Career Choice is an innovative benefit that pre-pays 95 percent of tuition, fees and textbooks (up to $12,000) for courses related to in-demand fields, regardless of whether they're related to skills for jobs at Amazon or not. We have over 16,000 employees who have participated in Career Choice.

No one knows what it's like to work in one of our fulfillment centers better than the skilled and dedicated people who do it every day. That's why we are encouraging all employees to take Senator Sanders up on his request and respond with their actual experience.

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