Bernie Sanders, Amazon clash over his 'inaccurate' accusations about 'low' employee pay

The fight between e-commerce giant Amazon and Sen. Bernie Sanders is getting uglier.

Amazon took to its blog early Wednesday to hit back at “inaccurate and misleading” criticisms from Sen. Bernie Sanders in an unusual political post from the tech giant.

The Independent Vermont senator penned a post of his own later in the day, renewing criticisms that the company does not pay employees enough and voicing concern over working conditions at fulfillment centers.

“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 wrote.

Amazon refuted the senator’s claims that it doesn’t pay lower-level employees a livable wage and therefore workers have to rely on government assistance programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), at the expense of other taxpayers.

“Senator Sanders continues to spread misleading statements about pay and benefits,” representatives for the company wrote on its Day One blog. “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.”

The company added that Sanders’ references to SNAP, “which hasn’t been called ‘food stamps’ for several years,” are misleading because they include part-time employees and those who only worked for the company for a short period of time – saying that these groups would “almost certainly qualify for SNAP.”

Meanwhile, Sanders accused the company of being “less than forthcoming with information about their employment practices.” He said the company’s median pay is 9 percent less than the industry average at $28,446, and “well below” a livable wage.

Sanders is expected to unveil legislation next week that would require large employers to cover the cost of federal assistance received by their employees through imposing a 100 percent tax on those benefits. The aim is to encourage companies, like Amazon, to pay higher wages and reduce the burden on the middle-class taxpayers that subsidize these programs. He recently created a survey for Amazon employees to ask whether they receive SNAP benefits, which the tech giant’s senior vice president of operations publicly encouraged employees to fill out.

Recent reports, citing the New Food Economy, show that as many as one-third of Amazon’s employees in Arizona receive food stamps, as do one-in-10 in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Sanders has also criticized the company for alleged poor working conditions at some of its facilities. On Wednesday he said “there are deeply disturbing stories about working conditions at fulfillment centers run by Amazon and its contractors.”

The company on Wednesday claimed that despite several invites, Sanders has not personally toured any of its fulfillment centers.

Sanders noted he will be asking the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to investigate the conditions at those centers, and will soon be visiting a facility.