Over the past year, U.S. cities and states have been tripping head-over-heels in an effort to be the host of the next Amazon headquarters. Last year, New Jersey approved an incentive package that would give Amazon tax breaks worth $7 billion if it moved to Newark. Philadelphia has offered $2 billion in tax exemptions over 10 years, Georgia $1 billion, and Maryland a whopping $8.5 billion.
But while state lawmakers continue to one-up each other in the race to host Amazon’s new HQ, a very different picture has emerged at the lower rungs of the company, where warehouse employees are so underpaid that they already incredibly reliant on state subsidies to survive.
According to the New Food Economy, Amazon ranks high on the list of employers with massive numbers of employees enrolled in SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps). In Ohio, around one in 10 Amazon employees uses SNAP; in Pennsylvania, about one in nine. In Arizona, nearly one in three Amazon employees is enrolled in the food stamp program.
Later this year, Amazon will start accepting food stamps for online grocery orders, from which it stands to benefit enormously as one of the nation’s top retailers. That means the company will be the recipient of government assistance (in the form of tax breaks and incentives) while its own workers are forced to rely upon that same program to survive.
The SNAP numbers are the latest in a series of revelations surrounding working conditions inside Amazon’s warehouse facilities. On Thursday, The Intercept noted that, in addition to being a top SNAP recipient, Amazon’s median employee pay was only $28,446 — 9 percent less than the industry average and well below the U.S. living wage.
On Sunday an undercover researcher also told The Sun that Amazon warehouse workers in Britain were reportedly peeing in bottles to avoid being accused of “time-wasting” for taking breaks. Amazon has also patented wristbands which track employee movements, which developers described as a “labor saving measure.”
Amazon’s white-collar employees aren’t excluded from the list of questionable work environments either. In 2015, an investigation by The New York Times found that Amazon employees were encouraged to work upwards of 80 hours a week; several described an environment of “purposeful Darwinism” and workers regularly crying at their desks.
UPDATE: 6:45 p.m. Eastern Time: An Amazon spokesperson addressed the SNAP report in an email to ThinkProgress on Friday evening, stating,
Amazon is proud to have created over 130,000 new jobs last year alone. These are good jobs with highly competitive pay and full benefits. In the U.S., 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. That’s in addition to our full benefits package that includes health, vision and dental insurance, retirement, generous parental leave, and skills training for in-demand jobs through our Career Choice program, which has over 16,000 participants.