On September 5, 2018, Senator Bernie Sanders and Rep. Ro Khanna introduced the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies (BEZOS) Act, aimed at demanding accountability from large, profitable companies such as Amazon and Walmart, who employ hundreds of workers, many of whom also rely on government assistance. The bill aimed to end corporate welfare with a 100 percent tax on large corporations – with at least 500 employees – equal to the federal benefits of their low-wage workers.
“The “Stop BEZOS Act,” named after Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, would require large employers such as Amazon.com and Walmart to pay the government for food stamps, public housing, Medicaid, and other federal assistance received by their workers. For example, an Amazon worker receiving $2,000 in food stamps would be taxed $2,000 to cover that cost.
“The proposed legislation came one day after Amazon reached $1 trillion in market cap, a milestone reinforcing its position as one of the world’s wealthiest companies. Bezos, who founded Amazon, is the world’s wealthiest person and owns The Washington Post. Amazon employs approximately 575,000 workers.
“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. “Despite low unemployment, we end up having tens of millions of Americans working at wages that are just so low that they can’t adequately take care of their families.”
Sanders’ office heard from “many hundreds” of current and former Amazon workers who have had to rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, and other government programs to cover their family’s basic needs. There is no official measure of a “living wage,” but the federal poverty level for a family of four is $24,600.
“Our legislation gives large, profitable employers a choice: pay workers a living wage or pay for the public assistance programs their low-wage employees are forced to depend upon,” Sanders said of the proposed law.
Citing a study from the University of California Berkeley Labor Center, Sanders said “Americans pay $150 billion annually in taxes for low-wage employees who rely on government assistance programs to help make ends meet.” Earlier this year, Amazon said in a government filing that its median salary is $28,446 — a figure, Amazon said, that includes the compensation for part-time employees. The company said the median salary for full-time Amazon employees is $34,123.
The pressure from Senator Sanders’ office successfully forced Amazon to pay 350,000 workers at least $15 an hour.