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A need to know basis: Amazon

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Graphic designed by Marianna Bacallao.

Graphic designed by Marianna Bacallao.

Graphic designed by Marianna Bacallao.

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Amazon has come under fire recently for the alleged poor treatment of its workers. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Ro Khanna have proposed a bill to address working conditions  — the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies (Stop BEZOS) Act. The act riffs off of the name of Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO.

Despite its name, Sanders spokesman Josh Miller-Lewis said that they are not targeting Amazon specifically.

“Jeff Bezos is the wealthiest person in the history of the world, and Amazon… is a $1 trillion company,” Miller-Lewis said. “They are the perfect example of the inequality and greed that exists in America today.”

The Stop BEZOS Act would make large corporations — 500 employees or more — pay taxes equivalent to the money their employees receive from federal aid.

When a company offers low wages for full-time jobs, their workers often have to rely on government aid to fully support themselves and their families. This means that companies don’t have to pay their workers a livable wage, because the slack is picked up by taxpayers. This act could change that.  

Since Amazon was established in 1994, Bezos has accrued a net worth of $161.6 billion, according to Forbes, while the median Amazon employee salary is $28,000 a year. Bezos makes that much in 8.93 seconds, according to TIME magazine.  

UK journalist James Bloodworth went undercover to test the working conditions of several large corporations, Amazon among them. During his time working in an Amazon warehouse, he found that workers were forced to urinate in bottles because of timed bathroom breaks.

Injuries on the job were common as well, and workers were penalized for asking for time off, even if the absence was requested well in advance.

These reasons are what led Amazon workers in Europe to go on strike this summer, during Prime Day.   

“It’s the sheer oppressiveness of management regime there,” Bloodworth told Business Insider. “It’s the most oppressive place I had ever worked, easily.”

His experiences have been chronicled in his book “Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain,” which is available for purchase on Amazon, ironically enough.

Bezos doesn’t seem too concerned with all of the bad press.

After he purchased the Washington Post in 2013, the publication still continued to write critical articles about Bezos’ business practices. The Prime Day strike in Europe didn’t hurt their sales, and neither did the coverage of police violently breaking up the strikes, according to the Chicago Tribune.

While bad press hasn’t had a big impact on Amazon’s stock and profits so far, the company has begun paying workers to defend them on Twitter, according to the Washington Times.

Sanders’ Stop BEZOS Act would be one of the first legislative measures against the megacorporations of the 21st century, but the economics behind the act itself has been met with controversy.

Some speculate that companies would find easy loopholes around Sanders’ act. Instead of paying for their employees welfare, they would stop hiring workers with more expensive welfare — workers with families that arguably need work the most. Medicaid for workers over the age of 45 is twice the price of younger workers, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The Stop BEZOS Act, as it is now, is unlikely to pass with a Republican-dominated Senate, but with the midterm elections coming up this November, that could change.      

 

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