Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Amazon have had a long-standing beef.
Sanders has been on Jeff Bezos and his company for the way it treats many of its workers: low wages, inhumane working conditions and production demands that rarely trickle down to those who help make it one of the world’s two $1 trillion dollar corporations.
Well, Jeff Bezos heard Bernie’s points and decided to make a change, announcing that he’s raising the minimum wage for all full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees with Amazon to $15.
The wage increase affects 250,000 full-time Amazon employees and more than 100,000 part-time and seasonal workers.
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.
It’s a huge development for Amazon and an even bigger win for the workers and Sanders himself.
But instead of gloating or pointing out where Amazon still needs to get better, Sanders showed the right way to respond by correctly praising Bezos during a press conference that was live-streamed on Facebook:
"Today, I want to give credit where credit is due and I want to congratulate Mr. Bezos for doing exactly the right thing," Sanders said.
"What Mr. Bezos today has done is not only enormously important for Amazon’s hundreds of thousands of employees, it could well be, and I think it will be, a shot heard around the world," Sanders added.
There’s still more work to be done. And even $15 an hour doesn't cut it.
A $15 hourly wage is more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25 But it's still shockingly low when you crunch the numbers. A $15 hourly wage over a 40 hour week multiplied by 52 weeks is still only $31,200. And that's before taxes. And almost no one works a full week every single week of the year when you count vacation, sick days and other life events.
As this graphic from the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows, it's incredibly difficult to make rent in any state across the U.S. not just trendy urban centers like New York or Los Angeles.
National Low Income Housing Coalition
Sanders didn’t dance around his past disagreements with Bezos, noting that many of his corporation’s employees were forced to go on food stamps just to meet basic needs. But he pivoted today’s news to saying that if Amazon can do this, there’s no excuse for other major corporations like them, who rely on the efforts of low-wage workers.
"Mr. Bezos and Amazon are now leading the way but there is absolutely now no reason why other profitable corporations like Walmart, like the fast food industry, like retail in general, and other employees ... should not be paying their employees at least $15 an hour," the senator added.
If you work full-time, you shouldn’t need assistance just to get by.
The larger point Sanders is trying to make seems obvious to anyone who works full-time, regardless of their personal politics.
If you work 40 hours or more a week, you should make enough money to live a comfortable, basic existence. That means food, clothing and shelter.
As a society, we can debate what it means on the higher level in terms of education, healthcare and other so-called “benefits” that are increasingly enjoyed by fewer Americans.
But there should be no debate about whether those who are able to, and choose to work, are rewarded with wages that give them the basic dignity to live independent lives.
As Sanders said: "In this country, our standard should be that if you work 40-hours a week, you should not be living in poverty."
So, when someone like Jeff Bezos makes strides towards embracing that kind of philosophy, he should be praised. Shaming our leaders has its place. But so does praising them when they choose to learn, adapt and do the right thing.