In a blog post published Wednesday, the e-commerce giant accused Vermont senator Bernie Sanders of making "inaccurate and misleading" allegations about its pay and benefits for warehouse employees. For months, Sanders has criticized Jeff Bezos and his company for paying wages so low that some workers have had to go on food stamps to make ends meet.
"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," the company writes in the post. It also states that Amazon has repeatedly asked Sanders and his team to visit a fulfillment center, but they still have yet to see the working conditions for themselves.
Sanders plans to introduce legislation on September 5 that would tax big corporations with employees on federal assistance. He has put out a call for Amazon employees to share their experiences working for the Seattle-based company on his website.
"If Amazon, Walmart, and other corporations won't pay their workers a living wage, our bill would establish a 100 percent tax equal to the amount of federal benefits received by their low-wage workers," he wrote Wednesday in response to Amazon's statement.
Amazon has been accused of poor working conditions before. A 2015 New York Times exposé described employees crying at their desks at the company's headquarters. More recently, an undercover writer found that warehouse workers in the U.K. would urinate in empty bottles instead of going to the bathroom to avoid penalties for taking time off work. (Amazon disputed the New York Times' claims in a blog post. In response to the U.K. story, a company spokesperson tells Inc. that employees "are allowed to use the toilet whenever needed. We do not monitor toilet breaks.")
Amazon recently enlisted fulfillment center employees to push back against criticism and negative press coverage. The so-called FC ambassadors receive the same wages and benefits as they did in the warehouse but for sharing their positive experiences on social media. An Amazon spokesperson said the move was not prompted by Sanders's criticisms.
"It's important that we do a good job of educating people about the actual environment inside our fulfillment centers, and the FC ambassador program is a big part of that along with the FC tours we provide," he said.
Updated on 8/30 to include Amazon's response to past media coverage accusing the company of poor working conditions.