Amazon is firing back at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, after the congresswoman claimed the e-commerce giant pays its warehouse workers “starvation wages.”
In a post on its official Twitter news account, the retailer put on blast the Democratic politician, who criticized Amazon during an interview on ABC News’ “This Week” on Sunday.
“I spend less time thinking about [Amazon CEO and founder] Jeff Bezos and more time thinking about Amazon warehouse workers,” Ocasio-Cortez said in the clip. “I think about the outcomes I want for those folks. Whether Jeff Bezos is a billionaire or not is less of my concern than if your average Amazon worker is making a living wage, if they have guaranteed health care and if they can send their kids to college tuition-free.
“And if that’s the case,” she added, “and Jeff Bezos is still a billionaire — that’s one thing. But if his being a billionaire is predicated on paying people starvation wages and stripping them of their ability to access health care, and also if his ability to be a billionaire is predicated on the fact that his workers take food stamps so I’m paying for him to be a billionaire… I think it’s certainly a part of the equation when you have a very large workforce and you underpay every single person.”
In response, Amazon slammed Ocasio-Cortez, calling her “just wrong.”
“Amazon is a leader on pay at $15 min wage + full benefits from day one,” the company tweeted today. “We also lobby to raise federal min wage.”
Last fall, Amazon announced that it would be raising its minimum wage to $15 for all employees across the United States. The hike took effect on Nov. 1, affecting more than 250,000 full-time, part-time and temporary employees, including those hired by agencies as well as more than 100,000 who work seasonal schedules. The Seattle-based company’s public policy team is also working with congressional members to campaign for a higher federal minimum wage, which is set at $7.25 an hour.
Separately, Bezos issued a challenge in April when he told his unnamed rivals to “match our employee benefits and our $15 minimum wage….Better yet, go to $16 and throw the gauntlet back at us. It’s a kind of competition that will benefit everyone.” (Big-box adversaries Walmart and Target have been making their own moves — the former raising its starting wage from $9 to $11 last January, and the latter stepping up its minimum hourly pay to $13, with plans to hit $15 by 2020.)
In a statement to FN, an Amazon spokesperson wrote, “These allegations are absurd. Amazon associates receive industry-leading pay starting at $15 an hour — in fact, hourly associates at our Staten Island facility earn between $17.30 and $23 an hour, plus benefits which include comprehensive medical, dental and vision insurance. On top of these benefits, Amazon pre-pays 95% of continuing education tuition costs through its Career Choice program for associates who want to pursue in-demand careers.
“For anyone who wants to know what it’s like to work in an Amazon fulfillment center, sign up for a tour today,” it encouraged.
It’s not the first time Ocasio-Cortez has come after Amazon. The New Yorker was among the most vocal critics of the company’s planned second headquarters in Long Island City — a move that would have brought in about 25,000 corporate jobs and sped the redevelopment of the formerly industrial neighborhood. It also would have given Amazon nearly $3 billion in tax incentives, which Ocasio-Cortez had argued the e-tail behemoth would have misused.
“Anything is possible,” AOC tweeted following the retailer’s decision to scrap its ambitious New York area project. “Today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world.”
The first centibillionaire on Forbes‘ wealth index, Bezos has been named the richest person in modern history with a net worth of $151 billion. Beyond Amazon, the 55-year-old retail tech entrepreneur also launched space exploration company Blue Origin in 2000, bought The Washington Post in 2013 for $250 million and makes personal investments through his venture capital fund, Bezos Expeditions.
This story was updated with comments from Amazon.
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