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FOCUS | Amazon to AOC: Excuse You, Our Employees Live Like Kings on $15/Hour
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=44994"><span class="small">Bess Levin, Vanity Fair</span></a>   
Tuesday, 18 June 2019 10:54

Levin writes: "The tech giant takes issue with the notion that its founder's wealth is predicated on paying 'starvation wages.'"

Jeff Bezos and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. (photo: Getty Images)
Jeff Bezos and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. (photo: Getty Images)

ALSO SEE: Amazon's Attack on Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez Is Corporate Gaslighting

Amazon to AOC: Excuse You, Our Employees Live Like Kings on $15/Hour

By Bess Levin, Vanity Fair

18 June 19

The tech giant takes issue with the notion that its founder’s wealth is predicated on paying “starvation wages.”

hen Amazon announced in February that it would not be opening a second headquarters in Queens as previously announced, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was one of the first lawmakers to claim victory, tweeting that defeating “Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world” was proof that “anything is possible.” And four months later, it appears her feelings about the company haven’t changed! Speaking to ABC News’s This Week on Sunday, AOC asserted that the only way Jeff Bezos was able to become the richest man in the world with a net worth of $117 billionafter giving his ex-wife roughly $37 billion—was by treating his employees like slave laborers. Noting that she has no issue with Bezos being obscenely rich if Amazon is paying its workers a “living wage,” AOC added: “If that’s the case and Jeff Bezos is still a billionaire, that’s one thing,” but if Bezos’s wealth is “predicated on paying people starvation wages and stripping them of their ability to access health care,” that’s a major problem. And you’ll never believe it, but the tech giant did not take kindly to such comments.

“These allegations are absurd,” Amazon said in a statement. “Amazon associates receive industry-leading pay starting at $15 an hour...Amazon pre-pays 95% of continuing education tuition costs through its Career Choice program for associates who want to pursue in-demand careers.” Jay Carney, Amazon’s head of communications, later chimed in to say, “More than 42% of all working Americans earn less than the $15/hour Amazon pays entry-level fulfillment center employees. And all our employees get top-tier benefits. I’d urge @AOC to focus on raising the federal minimum wage instead of making stuff up about Amazon.” (Last October, after the tech giant raised its minimum wage, Bloomberg reported that the company had eliminated stock awards and monthly bonuses for warehouse workers and other hourly employees.)

Ocasio-Cortez, of course, is not the only lawmaker to take issue with Amazon. Last week presidential hopeful Joe Biden tweeted, “I have nothing against Amazon, but no company pulling in billions of dollars of profits should pay a lower tax rate than firefighters and teachers. We need to reward work, not just wealth.” At the time, Amazon responded, “We’ve paid $2.6B in corporate taxes since 2016. We pay every penny we owe. Congress designed tax laws to encourage companies to reinvest in the American economy. We have. $200B in investments since 2011 & 300K US jobs. Assume VP Biden’s complaint is w/ the tax code, not Amazon,” which is a little bit like saying that not paying federal income taxes makes you smart.

The company responded similarly back in April when Elizabeth Warren introduced a proposal called the Real Corporate Profits tax, which would apply a 7% tax to all corporate profits over $100 million. Under her plan, for instance, Amazon would have paid $698 million in taxes last year, rather than the zero-dollar check it actually wrote Uncle Sam. Amazon, it seemed, did not appreciate being singled out, huffily insisting that it “pays all the taxes we are required to pay in the U.S. and every country where we operate, including paying $2.6 billion in corporate tax and reporting $3.4 billion in tax expense over the last three years,” to which Warren effectively responded, “Did I stutter?

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 June 2019 10:56


+4 # johnescher 2019-06-18 13:15
"Last week presidential hopeful Joe Biden..." I like it.
+25 # Texas Aggie 2019-06-18 14:58
Let's see. They didn't mention any medical benefits so we can assume they don't get them. They didn't mention any sick day benefits or maternity leave so we can assume they don't pay them. They didn't mention any paid vacation so we can assume they don't get them. They took away their retirement benefits. So the $15/hr has to pay for all of that.

40 hrs/wkX50 wks/yr = 2000 hrs/yr
2000X15 $/hr = $30000/yr

That is not going to pay rent, utilities, college education, food, clothing, insurance, retirement and car payments. That Amazon does no worse than anyone else is nothing to crow about. It's like saying someone is less dishonest than Phat Boy.

It might be mentioned that Mitt Romney's father (not Mitt Romney himself) did not take advantage of tax breaks to avoid paying taxes. That is a sense of decency that you don't find anywhere in the business world today.

And 58% of American workers earn more than Amazon workers even though Amazon is the most profitable corporation going and Bezos is the richest man on the planet.
+3 # goodsensecynic 2019-06-20 07:47
Re: "40 hrs/wkX50 wks/yr = 2000 hrs/yr
2000X15 $/hr = $30000/yr"

I wonder how many of these workers are credited with 40hrs/wk.

One of the more common strategies in the "gig economy" of precarious, part-time work is to limit employees hours (often to 29/wk) in order to avoid obligations normally assumed for "full-time" workers who typically have greater rights than "casual" workers.

Incidentally, words also matter: calling people "associates" implies a professional relationship similar to those that apply in law firms and other LLPs. Why not call these folk what they are: penurious peasants on a corporate/feuda l estate?
+17 # indian weaving 2019-06-18 15:01
Like AOC said, Amazon doesn't pay its employees a living wage. Ever try existing here on $15/hr.? Can't do it. When I was growing up in Elkhart, IN, the IRON BELT then, now the RUST BELT, you'd start a job in any of the many companies in town at $20 / hour minimum, in 1964 that is. And you'd be raised to over $30/hr. within a year or less in most cases. That was America. Now we have Amerikkka. Elkhart was ranked the Richest Town per Capita in America in 1960 on the cover of TIME magazine. Now, these cities and towns are crashing and burning due to the government sending all of their jobs to China.
+2 # Rcomm 2019-06-18 15:53
Most of their workers must live in Africa.
+14 # Carol R 2019-06-18 16:11
The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy says this about Amazon’s taxation:

Amazon, the ubiquitous purveyor of two-day delivery of just about everything, nearly doubled its profits to $11.2 billion in 2018 from $5.6 billion the previous year and, once again, didn’t pay a single cent of federal income taxes.

The company’s newest corporate filing reveals that, far from paying the statutory 21 percent income tax rate on its U.S. income in 2018, Amazon reported a federal income tax rebate of $129 million. For those who don’t have a pocket calculator handy, that works out to a tax rate of negative 1 percent. The fine print of Amazon’s income tax disclosure shows that this achievement is partly due to various unspecified “tax credits” as well as a tax break for executive stock options.

This isn’t the first year that the cyber-retailing giant has avoided federal taxes. Last year, the company paid no federal corporate income taxes on $5.6 billion in U.S. income.
+15 # AldoJay69 2019-06-18 16:45
Boycott Amazon!

0 # gdaley 2019-07-01 06:40
Quoting AldoJay69:
Boycott Amazon!


Try boycotting. Not easily done when they have slipped themselves into nearly every sales platform. Do you know how many times I have deliberately purchased something on eBay rather than Amazon of late only to find on delivery that the order was filled by Amazon?
+4 # kyzipster 2019-06-19 00:27
I guess I enjoy getting thumbs down but here goes. How could this article get written without mentioning Bernie Sanders' brilliant move, shaming Bezos into paying his stated goal of a $15 minimum wage? That's very confusing.

Sanders held a townhall type event, allowed Amazon workers to describe the stressful, low pay jobs. I caught it on the radio. Some workers have to work another job on their days off to feed their children. Later Sanders introduced a bill with Bezos' name on it. It would require Amazon to pay in taxes, dollar for dollar for any welfare benefits his workers receive because their pay is so low they qualify for benefits. Amazon now pays $15 entry level.

Of course that doesn't cut it in Queens but there's a large Amazon facility where I live. Most warehouse jobs I see advertised are at most $12 per hour, if a person is lucky. It can be as low as $9 or $10. We have a UPS hub here, there are tons of distribution centers.

That's a HUGE difference, $15, and cost of living is low here, I'm glad Amazon is here now that they're paying a decent wage.

Of course we don't have to applaud him for doing the right thing, and there's more to do no doubt. Keep an eye on warehouse conditions, benefits, etc.

What possible incentive would another corporation have for going this route if we're going to shame them in the end?
+8 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-06-19 06:15
There was a show on TV once in which the bosses went undercover and worked right along side of their employees. It was an eye-opener for many bosses. They saw just how hard the work was. And how little the pay was.

I think Bezos should have to spend a month as a line worker at Amazon. My bet is that he could not do the work. He would collapse from exhaustion, and then at $15 an hour he could not afford medical care or to take a few days off to rest. He'd just watch his health decline until he was forced to quit or was fired. End of Bezos.