Amazon’s consumer chief criticized Senator Bernie Sanders for planning a visit to Alabama, where historic union elections are currently taking place at one of the company’s warehouses.
Dave Clark, chief executive of Amazon’s global consumer business, launched a series of tweets Wednesday and Thursday morning defending the company’s labor practices and criticizing the independent senator from Vermont over the debate over the increase in tax. federal minimum wage.
On Friday, Sanders, rapper Killer Mike and actor Danny Glover will meet with workers from Bessemer, Alabama, Amazon, who are in the process of voting whether to join the Retail, Wholesale, and Large Stores Union (RWDSU). The meeting will be held in a RWDSU union hall in Birmingham, Alabama. Workers began voting by mail on February 8, and ballots are due to be mailed on Monday. The count will start the next day.
“I welcome [Sanders] to Birmingham and I appreciate his push for a progressive workplace, “Clark wrote in a tweet on Wednesday.” I often say that we are the Bernie Sanders of employers, but that’s not entirely correct because we actually offer a progressive workplace. “
Clark then doubled on Thursday, arguing that the minimum wage in Sanders’ home state of Vermont is $ 11.75 an hour, while the starting wage for Amazon workers is $ 15 an hour.
In a statement, RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum called Clark’s remarks “arrogant and deaf.”
He added that he questions whether Amazon believes “that the salary they pay, which is below what workers in nearby unionized warehouses receive and below Alabama’s median salary, gives them the right to mistreat and dehumanize their employees, put the health and safety of its workers in danger, forcing them to maintain an unbearable pace, which even the Amazon itself admits that a quarter of its workforce will not be able to comply, and to deny workers the dignity and respect they deserve.
“If working conditions were that good, Amazon would not have such an extraordinarily high turnover rate of more than 100 percent per year at its facilities,” Appelbaum continued.
Amazon and some of its executives have previously criticized Sanders, who is a frequent critic of Amazon. Following criticism from Sanders and other labor advocates, Amazon announced in 2018 that it would raise its minimum wage to $ 15 an hour.
Additionally, last week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos declined an invitation from Sanders to appear before the Senate Budget Committee for a hearing on income inequality. Sanders, who is chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, also invited Jennifer Bates, a worker at the Bessemer warehouse where union elections are held, to testify.
Amazon has played defensively as support for the union campaign has risen from President Joe Biden and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. In recent weeks, the company has frequently responded to critics of its work practices on Twitter and promoted its $ 15-an-hour minimum wage in print and digital ads.
Union leaders and lawmakers have seized on the elections for their potential to drive similar movements in other companies and in other industries. Some Amazon employees in other corners of the country hope that the union campaign will be successful so that they can generate support to organize their own workplaces.
Amazon has previously said that it respects workers’ right to join a union, but also that its workers don’t need a union to come between them and the company. It has held mandatory meetings with workers exposing the case against unionization and created a website urging workers to “do it without fees.”