Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world, with a net worth of $127 billion. Meanwhile, a staggering number of Amazon’s warehouse employees depend on food stamps to stay alive.
On Thursday, the Intercept reported that one in three Amazon warehouse employees in Arizona depend on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, informally known as food stamps. Four other states showed a similar pattern.
According to the site (emphasis mine):
The numbers show that the company relies disproportionately on the program even accounting for its size: Amazon was the 28th largest employer in Arizona last year, but it ranked fifth for the number of employees enrolled in SNAP. It held the fifth slot in Pennsylvania as well, though it’s only the 19th largest employer. In Kansas, where Amazon isn’t even among the top 50 largest employers, it still ranked 17th for the number of employees using SNAP at the beginning of this year. Similarly, the company ranked 53rd in overall employment numbers in Ohio last year but 19th when it came to employees using SNAP. In Washington, where Amazon’s headquarters employ many white-collar workers, its employees were still the 17th most reliant on SNAP over the past four years.
While Amazon employees at its Seattle headquarters make an average salary of more than $110,000, according to Glassdoor data cited by the Seattle Times, the paper reported Thursday that the company’s median employee earned just $28,446 last year. That’s because the vast majority of Amazon’s 566,000 employees are not white-collar workers in Seattle but blue-collar workers toiling in the company’s 140 “fulfillment centers” across the country.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos received $1,681,840 in compensation in 2017, $1.6 million of which he spent on his personal security, according to the Seattle Times. While a titan of industry taking home a relatively modest $81,840 salary might sound admirable, it’s worth remembering that Bezos owns 16% of Amazon’s shares. Meanwhile, Amazon’s warehouse workers make an average of $13 an hour, according to Glassdoor. Compare that figure to Walmart—not exactly a beacon of employee satisfaction—which pays its distribution center employees an average of $17 an hour, according to Payscale.
Amazon is also turning record profits; the company took in $1.9 billion in the last quarter of 2017. There are more than 100 million Amazon Prime members—nearly one-third of the U.S. population. Bezos is the richest person who has ever lived. His company is more than able to pay his workers enough money to keep them off of food stamps. It is absolutely unconscionable that anyone who works a full-time job anywhere—let alone for a company that’s on track to hit a $1 trillion market valuation—should have to depend on government assistance to buy groceries. Perversely, when Amazon’s new grocery store in Seattle opened earlier this year, it wasn’t accepting food stamps.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Ronald Reagan used the racist myth of the “welfare queen” to villainize welfare recipients as lazy and entitled, who were able to live lavish lifestyles on the hardworking taxpayer’s dime. But it’s not the working poor who take advantage of the social safety net, it’s heinously rich executives who with one hand refuse to pay their workers a living wage, thus forcing the federal government to pick up the slack, and with the other dodge federal taxes and encourage a tax incentive bidding war among local governments. Jeff Bezos is the biggest welfare queen in the country.
Update, April 20, 8:15 am: An Amazon spokesperson sent Splinter this comment:
“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.”
Correction: This story originally misstated the number of states where a high number of Amazon employees rely on food stamps.