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Day 2: Bernie Sanders and Amazon trade more jabs over wages, working conditions

The senator and e-commerce giant are butting heads ... again.

Bernie Sanders
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Sen. Bernie Sanders and Amazon can't seem to make up.

A row between Vermont's independent senator and the e-commerce giant spilled over into Thursday with the two sides poking each other over Twitter about Amazon's wages and working conditions. The fight started on Wednesday after both parties released statements about work at the e-tailer, with Sanders criticizing Amazon and the company defending its record.

"If Amazon is so proud of the way it treats its workers, why won't it make public the number of people it hires through temporary staffing agencies like Integrity Staffing Solutions and the hourly rate and benefits those workers earn?" Sanders tweeted on Day 2 of the bout.

A day earlier, Sanders released a statement saying the median employee pay at Amazon is $28,446 (a number Amazon disclosed in an April filing, and has since specified is global and includes part-time employees). Sanders says the pay is 9 percent lower than the industry average, and that thousands of Amazon employees rely on "food stamps, Medicaid and public housing."

"Many Amazon employees, who work for the wealthiest person on Earth, are paid wages so low they can't make ends meet," the statement read. 

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has a net worth of $159 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. In July, he became the richest person in modern history.

Sanders' statement came after he asked Amazon employees to share their experience working for the e-commerce giant. Amazon's warehouses are on the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health's list of most dangerous places to work in the US, he noted. The organization says seven Amazon employees have died at the company's warehouses since 2013. Sanders said he'll ask the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to investigate working conditions at the fulfillment centers.

Amazon quickly responded on Wednesday with its own statement and a tweet saying Sanders had presented "misleading and inaccurate" allegations against the company's working conditions and wages.

Amazon laced up its gloves again on Thursday, tweeting, ".@SenSanders, the correct number for median US pay for full-time Amazon employees is $34,123. The average hourly wage in the US for full-time associates (over 90% of associates) in our fulfillment centers, including cash, stock, and incentive bonuses, is over $15/hour." 

The company continued: "Over 90% of associates in FCs are full-time. Like most companies, we hire temporary associates to help us manage the seasonality of the retail business. And every year, we hire large numbers of these temporary associates into full-time roles, and are happy when we get to do so."

In its statement, Amazon said Sanders' claims about employees relying on SNAP -- it corrected Sanders' use of the phrase "food stamps," saying it's outdated -- are misleading because they include people who worked for Amazon for a brief period or were employed part-time. The company said it gives employees benefits including health insurance, disability insurance, retirement savings plans and company stock. It also said it has a "climate controlled, safe workplace."

Sanders has criticized Amazon before. In May, he posted a video slamming the company for its treatment of warehouse workers.

The senator said he'll introduce legislation on Sept. 5 "to end the absurdity of middle class taxpayers having to subsidize large, profitable corporations, many of which are owned by billionaires."

The bill would create a 100 percent tax equal to the amount of federal benefits received by low-wage workers at companies such as Amazon, he said. 

First published Aug 29, 1:52 p.m.
Update, Aug. 30 at 1:30 p.m.: Adds tweets from Sen. Bernie Sanders and Amazon on Thursday.

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