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FOCUS: Bernie Sanders Is Officially Getting Under Jeff Bezos's Skin
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=46485"><span class="small">Maya Kosoff, Vanity Fair</span></a>   
Friday, 31 August 2018 11:10

Kosoff writes: "Amazon issued a rare, full-scale rebuttal after the Vermont senator went on the warpath."

Senator Bernie Sanders. (photo: Getty)
Senator Bernie Sanders. (photo: Getty)

Bernie Sanders Is Officially Getting Under Jeff Bezos's Skin

By Maya Kosoff, Vanity Fair

31 August 18

Amazon issued a rare, full-scale rebuttal after the Vermont senator went on the warpath.

hile Donald Trump zeroes in on Facebook and Google, Bernie Sanders has for months been waging war against another tech giant. In statement after statement, the progressive senator from Vermont has decried Amazon, claiming that the $954 billion company doesn’t pay enough workers a living wage—especially those who toil in its more than 100 fulfillment centers across the country. Many of the attacks have been personal: “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,” he tweeted earlier this week. “Count to ten,” he wrote in another tweet. “In those ten seconds, Jeff Bezos, the owner and founder of Amazon, just made more money than the median employee of Amazon makes in an entire year.” Not content to bludgeon the company from the confines of Twitter, Sanders’s office has also appealed directly to Amazon employees: “Have you used public assistance, such as food stamps, Medicaid or subsidized housing, in order to make ends meet?” asks a form on his Web site.

By now, these sorts of accusations are commonplace. But Amazon’s response was not. Instead of brushing off the claims with a boilerplate statement or an internal memo, as Bezos did in response to a damning New York Times story in 2015, the company published an entire blog post on Wednesday devoted to debunking Sanders’s claims. In addition to calling his allegations “inaccurate” and ”misleading,” Amazon claimed that the “average hourly wage for a full-time associate in our fulfillment centers . . . is over $15/hour.” In one particularly angry line seeming to insinuate that Sanders is out-of-touch, Amazon wrote, “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.” The company added that it had offered Sanders a tour of its fulfillment centers, and invited its workers to respond with their positive experiences. Its post was later updated to include one worker testimonial.

Amazon’s own claims run counter to dozens of reports of worker mistreatment. In recent years, stories have proliferated about warehouse workers skipping bathroom breaks to keep their jobs; taking home less than the minimum wage; and walking as many as 15 miles a day inside warehouses, while handheld scanners tell management how much idle time they spend between fulfilling customer orders. In Amazon’s Breinigsville, Pennsylvania, warehouse, workers were allegedly forced to work in 100-degree heat, leading some to become dehydrated and collapse. (Amazon eventually installed air conditioners in the warehouse.) Since 2013, according to the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, seven people have died on the job in Amazon warehouses. (In response to the N.C.O.S. study, Amazon said in a statement that it is “proud of [its] safety record and thousands of Amazonians work hard every day innovating ways to make it even better.”)

So far, the responses to Sanders’s form have told similar stories. “If my aunt wasn’t helping I wouldn’t be able to make it, at least put food on the table,” wrote one current worker in Cleveland, Tennessee. “Was homeless sleeping in the parking lot after I no longer could afford rent,” wrote a former worker in Fort Worth, Texas. “If anyone wanted to experience what a turn of the 20th century American sweat shop might have looked/sounded/felt like,” wrote a former employee in San Antonio, “they [can] look no further than Amazon.”

When Bezos was named the richest man in modern history at the end of last month, it threw the plight of Amazon’s workers into even sharper relief, coinciding with a spate of protests from Amazon workers around the world over poor working conditions. As I wrote last month, there was always the danger that Bezos’s massive wealth would become a liability for his company. And Sanders, in his relentless fight against the one percent, seems resolved to make Bezos the face of U.S. income inequality.

Amazon seems uniquely wary of Sanders, and for good reason. While damning stories have not been enough to ruffle the company, rising political tensions have. In the past five years, as it has grown in size, Amazon has increased its lobbying spending 400 percent, mostly staving off Washington regulators. More recently, however, Trump has given Wall Street reason to worry. After a series of tweets in which the president claimed the company gets special treatment from the U.S. Postal Service (“Only fools, or worse, are saying that our money losing Post Office makes money with Amazon,” he wrote in one), Amazon’s stock plunged 5 percent. Worse for Bezos, the negative attention is increasingly bipartisan. Sanders is the most popular politician in the country, at least according to recent polling, meaning his words could prove substantially weightier than the (notoriously unpopular) president’s. He could also inspire other progressive lawmakers to mimic them. If there is to be a sustained effort to cut Amazon down to size, after all, it would help if it outlasted Trump’s tenure in the White House. your social media marketing partner


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+65 # Blackjack 2018-08-31 17:32
Yes, by all means, Bezos. Do the right thing!! Instead of allocating some of your extravagant wealth to your employees, increase your lobbying spending by 400 percent to stave off Washington regulators! Too much money and too little conscience!
+64 # Texas Aggie 2018-08-31 19:02
How much would it hurt Bezos to actually pay his workers a decent wage and to have reasonable working conditions? Amazon could afford it. While it might cut into profits, there would still be more than enough to go around. The idea that a corporation should be financially liable for any of the government programs that its employees needed to use in order to live is more than reasonable.

Bezos can complain about having to pay benefits for part timers, but there is nothing stopping him from hiring full timers instead of part timers.
+4 # BetaTheta 2018-08-31 23:14
But then you are more obligated to give those full-timers benefits.
+35 # jon 2018-08-31 19:26
Bernie for President
+15 # PABLO DIABLO 2018-08-31 20:13
Boycott the companies that are "killing" us. They won't change. WE MUST. Only costs a few dollars more to patronize local Mom n Pop stores.
+21 # economagic 2018-08-31 21:25
How to Lie With Statistics (title of book from 1954):

"Amazon claimed that the 'average hourly wage for a full-time associate in our fulfillment centers . . . is over $15/hour.'"

A classic case of the "wrong 'average.'" We learned in school--or should have, whether last year or 60 years ago--that there are three kinds of "average," single numbers used to summarize a large number of numbers. Without further qualification, "average" refers to the arithmetic mean, the sum of all of the numbers divided by the number of numbers.

Example: What is the average of 1, 2, and 18? 1+2+18 = 21; 21/3 = 7. But wait: Is the number 7 really typical of the three numbers? It is a little more than a third of the largest, but SEVERAL TIMES LARGER than either of the others. The one "very large" number is said to "skew" the average.

In such a case, the appropriate number to take as typical is the median, the one in the middle, in this case 2. That number is reasonably "typical" of two of the three.


Imagine a small company with three employees, paid $100, $200, and $2,100 per week. What is their average wage? The mean, which Bezos knows is the only "average" most people remember, is $700. YET TWO THIRDS OF THE WORKERS EARN LESS THAN ONE THIRD THAT MUCH!

These are the things one is supposed to learn in middle-school math class, but that few people actually do because for some "unknown" reason the problem above is not on the standardized test.
+8 # Art947 2018-09-01 21:24
I am pleased to say that I have been teaching my students to be aware of these statistical anomalies for many years. It is unfortunate that those who write news stories are frequently ignorant of how to interpret statistical information.
+1 # economagic 2018-09-02 19:27
Thanks to a passel of astute teachers like you!
+24 # BetaTheta 2018-08-31 23:12
It's always good to be suspicious when someone quotes an "average" wage, as opposed to "median." It doesn't take many highly paid managers to bring up the average.
It's the statistician's old joke: Bill Gates walks into a bar, and the average net worth of all the patrons is instantly in the millions.
+16 # hiker 2018-09-01 09:57
Amazon said in a statement that it is “proud of [its] safety record".
Typical corporate slim. They're "proud" that seven people died on the job?
0 # RLF 2018-09-05 09:07
Amazon is the new Walmart and anyone who uses it is empowering the right and lazy.