Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled legislation on Wednesday targeting pay and working conditions at big companies like Amazon, after the pair traded jabs in blog posts last week.
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Called the “Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies” Act, or Stop BEZOS Act, the bill would impose a 100 percent welfare tax on large employers equal to the amount that their workers receive in public assistance benefits, in an effort to encourage companies to raise wages.
“The Stop Bezos Act gives large employers a choice: pay workers a living wage or pay for the public assistance programs low wage workers are forced to rely upon,” the text of the legislation reads.
The independent Vermont senator cited research from the University of California, Berkeley Labor Center, which found low wages end up costing taxpayers $152.8 billion per year to fund federal assistance programs.
For the purpose of the bill, large employers are defined as those with more than 500 workers – including independent contractors and franchise workers.
During a speech over the weekend, Sanders called out Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for the company’s pay practices, despite the businessman’s vast fortune.
“We have one person whose wealth is increasing by $250 million every single day, while he pays thousands of his workers’ wages that are so low that they are forced to go on food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing,” Sanders said, referring to Bezos.
The senator has said the company’s median pay is 9 percent less than the industry average at $28,446, and “well below” a livable wage.
Meanwhile, Amazon, in a rare political post, wrote a blog post in response to Sanders’ barbs last week, calling comments the senator made “inaccurate and misleading.”
The e-commerce giant refuted Sanders’ 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. The company added that Sanders’ references to SNAP 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.”
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.
In addition to the public spat between Sanders and Amazon, the senator names other large U.S. corporations, including McDonalds, Walmart and American Airlines, as targets of his bill.