Senator Sanders vs Amazon

In addition to the President vs Tech Companies feud, there is another going on between Senator Sanders and Amazon. The Senator voiced his criticism of the company here while you can find Amazon’s response on this page. Here’s my thought on it.

I believe that Amazon brings value to the society. It gives consumers what we need: a variety of goods at reasonable prices in a short amount of time and especially a lot of convenience. The marketplace also helps small businesses as well. I believe that the company has earned its standing today in the society and should be credited for it.

Amazon is criticized for low pays and keeping temporary workers on “temp” status for a long time to avoid higher costs. According to this study, the median wage at Amazon’s fulfillment center is $12.32 an hour, 9% less than the industry’s comparable work. On the other hand, Amazon’s response claimed that “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”. I am not sure how much stock and incentive bonuses make up of that hourly wage of $15. Nonetheless, I don’t pay much attention to it. I don’t know which side is correct. Both may have a point, but it would be very difficult to have a definite answer.

What I think is missing in the conversation is that apparently, none of what Amazon has done is illegal. Sure, some people are upset about Amazon doing what it can to maximize revenue and profit. But, who wouldn’t? I certainly would myself if I were managing Amazon. Put yourself in the shoes of people running the company. If what you are doing is perfectly legal, would you change? Companies are in business to make money, not to please EVERYONE. They can tell beautiful stories about vision and mission, but at the end of the day, revenue and profits matter.

Instead of criticizing Amazon, I think politicians and the public should look at themselves first. When it announced the intention of having a second headquarter, states went an extra mile to get the love from the Seattle-based behemoth. One state proposed to give them a $7 billion tax cut. In May, Seattle unanimously passed a law that required companies in the city to pay an amount of tax for every employee to fund affordable housing and services for the homeless. A month later, the city government reversed the decision under pressure from corporation-led opposition. Last but not least, there was the tax cut last year aimed to help big corporations.

The point is that Amazon plays by the rules and they do it better than most. To change the situation, the government has to change the rules. If every state requires a minimum wage of $16-17/hour without any caveat, what else could Amazon do but comply? They may use more automation or innovate to find cost savings somewhere, but it’s another topic. They would have no choice but to pay workers more.

But it would drive the goods’ prices up?

Well, we are partly to blame for it. We as consumers want goods at low price fast and conveniently, but at what expense and who is paying for that expense? The workers may be the ones paying for it now. If we as consumers want to criticize the company or its peers, we first may have to look at our part. I personally want cheap goods. But if the minimum wage increases and so does the price for everything, then so be it. What choice would I have? On the flip side, my wage as an office employee would increase as well.

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