Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced the "Stop BEZOS Act" on Wednesday, which would require large, profitable companies like Amazon to pay the government a 100% tax on any federal aid their employees receive, including Medicaid, food stamps, and public housing.
The bill, formally called the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act, is aimed at all employers but has been especially inspired by Mr. Sanders' criticism of and the wealth of its founder, Jeff Bezos. Anecdotes shared by current and former Amazon employees corroborate these findings. Sanders has always been critical of Bezos, especially since reports earlier this year said many Amazon warehouse employees require federal assistance to put food on the table.
"This bill would establish a corporate welfare tax on large employers equal to the amount of federal benefits received by their low-wage workers", a summary of Sanders and Khanna's bill notes. If a worker collected $2,000 in food stamps, for instance, the employer would be taxed $2,000 to cover the cost.
"In other words, the taxpayers of this country would no longer be subsidizing the wealthiest people in this country who are paying their workers inadequate wages", Sanders said at a news conference announcing the bill, according to the The Washington Post.
In addition, Amazon workers' median annual salary a year ago was $28,446, but this figure includes both full and part-time employees. Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, introduced a House version of the same bill named the Corporate Responsibility and Taxpayer Protection Act.
The company highlighted that its average hourly wage for a full-time fulfillment center employee is more than $15 an hour, including cash, stock and incentive bonuses, but before overtime. The Vermont senator has previously railed against the way Amazon treats its workers. Sanders' bill isn't likely to progress in the current political climate but it does bring added attention to warehouse worker conditions, which have come under scrutiny in recent months.
"If you're an employer with a job applicant who you fear is going to draw public benefits, whether you're right or wrong, you may try and avoid hiring that person", Bernstein said.
"Workers who receive these benefits would thus become thousands of dollars more expensive to employ than other workers who are paid the same wage but don't qualify for these benefits", Greenstein said.
Sanders' legislation has also raised concerns with at least one prominent left-leaning organization.
"There was a point where I would find myself crying on my shift", Seth King, who served eight years in the Navy, says in a July video about his experiences in a fulfillment center.