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Bernie Sanders slams Amazon and Jeff Bezos as part of 'a rigged economy'

The criticisms follow President Trump's own attacks against the company.

Ben Fox Rubin Former senior reporter
Ben Fox Rubin was a senior reporter for CNET News in Manhattan, reporting on Amazon, e-commerce and mobile payments. He previously worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Ben Fox Rubin
3 min read

In a video posted Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders says Amazon employees are forced to rely on food stamps, Medicaid and public housing "because their wages are just too low."

Bernie Sanders/Screenshot by CNET

About a month after Amazon faced harsh criticism from President Donald Trump, the company is now getting attacked from the other side of the political spectrum.

Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, on Tuesday posted a video online deriding Amazon's treatment of its warehouse workers, juxtaposing that situation against CEO Jeff Bezos' enormous wealth. He called this scenario a clear sign of "a rigged economy." 

The video was posted one day after Sanders, an advocate for a higher minimum wage, announced his plans to seek a third term in the Senate later this year.

"Bezos makes more in 10 seconds than the median Amazon employee makes in a year: $28,466," the video stated, referencing Bezos' status as the world's richest person thanks to his 16 percent stake in Amazon.

Sanders in late April also criticized the company, claiming Amazon paid no federal income taxes last year.

But, while Amazon decided to avoid saying anything publicly about Trump's attacks, the Seattle-based online retailer on Tuesday responded to Sanders' video and invited him to tour an Amazon warehouse. Sanders later that day agreed to take the tour.

"Please compare our median pay & benefits to other retailers. We'd be happy for you to come see an FC for yourself," the company said, using the acronym for a fulfillment center.

The company declined to comment further Wednesday.

Sanders and Trump's attacks are part of growing political attention toward Amazon and its business practices, in part because of the company's explosive growth and ramped-up lobbying in Washington. Bezos' increased influence in the nation's capital, with his ownership of The Washington Post, is another factor.

All this negative attention comes during heightened scrutiny of tech giants like Facebook and Google, with particular focus on how they use consumers' data. But so far, customers don't seem that concerned with these political tussles involving Amazon, with the company enjoying positive consumer polling and ever-higher revenue.

In a series of tweets over several days last month, Trump repeatedly called out the company for allegedly underpaying for Postal Service deliveries as well as avoiding paying its fair share in taxes. Trump's accusations culminated in the president signing an executive order to review the Postal Service's finances and operations. He also pushed the postmaster general to double its fees to Amazon, the Post reported last week.

Sanders, too, accused Amazon of not paying enough in taxes, claiming it didn't pay any federal income taxes last year. In its latest annual report, Amazon said it paid $957 million in income taxes last year. An analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy claimed that none of that money went to federal income taxes.

In accepting Amazon's invitation, Sanders said: "I remain deeply concerned about Amazon, an enormously profitable corporation, paying workers wages that are so low that they are forced to depend on federal programs like Medicaid, food stamps and public housing for survival. At a time of exploding profits, I would hope that Amazon would pay everyone who works in your fulfillment centers a living wage."

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