By: Christina La Rosa, Contributor
Bernie Sanders and Rep. Ro Khanna recently introduced the Stop BEZOS Act. Aptly named, it takes a stab at Amazon CEO Jeffrey Bezos, and stands for “Stop Bad Employees by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act.” The act would instigate a 100 percent tax on government benefits, like food stamps, that are received by workers at companies with a minimum of 500 employees. The bill would force large companies to make a choice between paying their workers a living wage and paying for programs essential for their employees to live. Amazon refuted Sanders’ criticisms, and the company claims that reports of their average wage were misleading, as they included part-time employees. Nevertheless, Amazon recently raised their minimum wage from 13.68 to 15 dollars-an-hour. This bill has a long way to go, but it is an important step for workers in our country who desperately need safeguarding from exploitation, and it has started a much needed conversation.
Jeffrey Bezos is considered the wealthiest person in the world, and Amazon is a Fortune 500 company. Raising the minimum wage will not seriously impact their bottom line in any way. A full time employee at a major company should not require federal programs to fulfill their basic needs. Though the bill aims to address these issues, it has received criticism from both sides of the political spectrum.
Opponents are concerned the bill would motivate companies to avoid hiring employees who would most likely need federal assistance, such as single mothers. These taxes could incentivize companies like Amazon to go out of their way to avoid attracting parents through such means as dropping their parental leave benefit. The bill could also encourage large companies to avoid extending into states that have expanded their Medicaid coverage, as more people would qualify for federal aid. What would be required to reduce the dependence on federal programs is an increase of the minimum wage and strengthen workers’ unions, which Sanders and Khanna have been pushing for a long time.
While the idea behind the bill is sound, there are issues with the reality of its execution. Stop BEZOS likely will not be passed, but it may have already served its intended purpose. In fact, it is possible that Sanders and Khanna never really intended for the bill to be passed at all. The Stop BEZOS bill sent a very poignant message: the government cannot allow itself to be used as a welfare source for billionaires. The bill simultaneously generated a massive public discussion and put pressure on large companies, which seems to be paying off already.
Stop BEZOS successfully motivated companies to raise their minimum wages by shining a spotlight on the way that they treat their employees. Walmart, Target and Costco have all publicized plans to increase their minimum wages. Large companies should be required to pay their workers a living wage. Jeff Bezos, a man with a net worth of 168 billion, should not have workers on food stamps. But this act has certainly started a conversation and incited change for the better.