‘Stop BEZOS’ Bill Takes Aim at Companies Paying Low Wages

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Fremont) wants to tax large companies equal to the value of public benefits their workers receive. The Silicon Valley congressman is teaming up with Sen. Bernie Sanders on the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies (Stop BEZOS) Act.

The bill, as the name implies, takes aim at corporations like Amazon, whose chief executive Jeff Bezos this year became the richest man in modern history while half his workers reportedly scrape by on an annual salary of $28,500.

Khanna and Sanders, who introduced the bill Wednesday, defined large companies as those with 500 or more workers and pointed to a 2015 UC Berkeley study showing that low wages cost U.S. taxpayers upward of $150 billion a year in public support. Meanwhile, wages adjusted for inflation are declining while more than 40 percent of American families can’t cover basic expenses such as medical care, utilities, rent or mortgage, according to a recent Urban Institute survey.

The two lawmakers also cited a report by the nonprofit New Food Economy showing that—even accounting for the company’s size—Amazon employees disproportionately rely on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the federal subsidy commonly known as food stamps. Amazon disputed those statistics in a blog last month, saying Sanders has been spreading “misleading statements” about worker pay and that most of the food stamp recipients he’s talking about are part-time employees.

In their joint news release, Sanders and Khanna—who introduced companion bill called Corporate Responsibility and Taxpayer Protection Act—call the billionaire owners of the most profitable corporations the “largest recipients of welfare.”

"There’s no reason why people who work hard to provide for themselves and their families should be living paycheck to paycheck, having to choose between feeding their family and making rent,” Khanna said in the announcement. “Our nation needs to provide people with basic fairness. Massive corporations are only draining our economy by vastly underpaying workers.”

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

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