Amazon bills itself as a creator of jobs. Look no further than the ludicrous subsidy packages offered by cities in competition to host its second headquarters. But according to public records requests obtained by the Intercept, Amazon can drain public coffers in other ways, with five states listing Bezos’s empire as a top beneficiary of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance dollars.
The issue of Amazon workers relying on food stamps may be more widespread, as this news only represents the data that’s been furnished publicly so far. But in Kansas, Pennsylvania, Washington, Ohio, and Arizona, Amazon is among the top 20 beneficiaries of SNAP—and in Arizona things are particularly dire, with one out of every three Amazon employees needing food stamps to eat.
It’s a brilliant grift, taken at a distance: Amazon promises jobs—often low-skill sortation and fulfillment jobs in to-be-built warehouses in small, blighted cities without much of a local economy, like San Bernardino, California—in exchange for a buffet of subsidies. These are the same jobs that reportedly have workers spending 10 hours in a metal cage, afraid to take breaks to use the bathroom, which are themselves supported by an even more precarious glut of temporary, seasonal, and “at-will” employees who are on call, but do not have benefits or guaranteed hours. Then the number of those jobs and their expected pay is whittled down until the duped city is left footing the bill.
It’s a vile business, but business is booming. Bezos, in his letter to shareholders yesterday, was happy to announce Amazon Prime now has 100 million subscribers.
4/19/18 4:50pm ET: An Amazon spokesperson sent Gizmodo the following statement:
“Amazon provides employees with competitive wages and regular pay increases plus Amazon stock and performance based bonuses. We also provide comprehensive benefits which include health, vision, and dental insurance coverage starting on day one, generous maternity and family leave, tuition for career education, and a network of support to succeed.”
4/20/18 3:22pm ET: An Amazon spokesperson reached out to Gizmodo again and asked that we replace the statement they provided with the one below. We declined. The second statement largely reiterates what they contended yesterday, with the additional information of the number of jobs and an an hourly wage figure inflated by stock options (if employees last long enough to leverage those options) and incentives. Excluded is the notion that Amazon provides a “network of support,” for whatever reason.
“Amazon is proud to have created over 130,000 new jobs last year alone. These are good jobs with highly competitive pay and full benefits. In the U.S., the average hourly wage for a full-time associate in our fulfillment centers, including cash, stock, and incentive bonuses, is over $15/hour before overtime. That’s in addition to our full benefits package that includes health, vision and dental insurance, retirement, generous parental leave, and skills training for in-demand jobs through our Career Choice program, which has over 16,000 participants.”
We reached out to this spokesperson to ask if the number of jobs Amazon created last year includes part-time and seasonal workers, and if so, what their estimated hourly wage might be. We’ll update when we hear back.