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30 Aug, 2018 14:12

Feeling the Bern? Amazon pushes back against Sanders' crusade against retail giant

Feeling the Bern? Amazon pushes back against Sanders' crusade against retail giant

Bernie Sanders has vowed to introduce legislation targeting Amazon, with the besieged retail giant issuing a rare statement in an attempt to push back against accusations of low pay and dangerous working conditions at the company.

In a blog post published on its website, Amazon said that the Vermont senator was "playing politics" and "continues to make inaccurate and misleading accusations" about the company. The statement went on to encourage all Amazon employees to contact the lawmaker and set him straight.

Sanders ruffled Amazon's feathers after inviting current and former Amazon employees to fill out a form on his website sharing their experiences at the company. In a follow-up statement, the senator vowed to push the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to investigate unsafe working conditions at Amazon fulfillment centers, and said that he was preparing to introduce legislation to "end the absurdity of middle class taxpayers having to subsidize large, profitable corporations, many of which are owned by billionaires."

Noting that the retail giant's owner, Jeff Bezos, is the richest man on the planet, worth an estimated $155 billion, Sanders said that the company's runaway success was not being felt by the average employee.

"All over this country, many Amazon employees, who work for the wealthiest person on Earth, are paid wages so low they can't make ends meet," a statement posted to Sanders' website said. "Thousands of Amazon employees are forced to rely on food stamps, Medicaid and public housing because their wages are too low… [T]he 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."

In its response to Sanders' criticisms, Amazon claimed that the senator had used misleading figures to suggest that its employees were underpaid, arguing that full-time workers enjoyed generous salaries and benefits when compared to other retailers.

However, the company offered up far less compelling rebuttals against other accusations leveled by Sanders. For example, citing the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (NCOSH), Sanders claims that Amazon is considered one of the most dangerous places to work in the United States. According to NCOSH, seven Amazon workers have died on or near the job since 2013.

While not addressing NCOSH's findings directly, Amazon insisted that its employees enjoy a "safe, climate controlled" workplace.

Sanders has previously targeted Amazon and Bezos as part of a "rigged economy" that exploits workers. In a letter sent to Bezos in June, Sanders said that his staff had received stories from suffering Amazon employees – some of whom are even homeless.

"The people you employ who spend 10 or more hours a night running, bending, lifting, and packing up our new electronic gadgets, baby clothes, dog treats and kitchen appliances – many of these workers struggle to pay their rent, put food on the table, send their kids to college or afford their medical bills."

While Sanders goes after Amazon for low wages and unsafe working conditions, the company is also battling accusations of tax dodging and hurting small businesses – allegations coming from the opposite side of the political aisle.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly slammed the e-commerce behemoth for destroying traditional retailers, not paying its fair share of taxes and underpaying the US Postal Service for delivering its goods.

Citing sources close to the White House, a story in Vanity Fair claimed that Trump is "obsessed with Bezos" and has essentially declared "war" on Amazon.

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