A considerable number of Amazon fulfillment workers are reportedly dependent on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, according to public records obtained by The Intercept.
The report claims though Amazon has received government subsidies to build its warehouses, with the promise to create and provide jobs to the area, it provides below-average wages for several its employees. It said it is still unclear what the effects of the online retailer’s rapid growth will be on the long-term employment in the places they are located.
“Even as generous subsidies help its warehouse turn a profit, its workers still must turn to the federal safety net to put food on the table,” the Intercept reported. “In Pennsylvania, for instance, an estimated $24.8 million in subsidies support 13 warehouses employing around 10,000 workers. At the same time, more than 1,000 of those workers don’t make enough to buy groceries.”
They accused Amazon of failing to meet its promises to provide jobs to low-skilled workers in exchange for tax subsidies to build its warehouses even though government assistance must compensate for their pay practices that don’t provide employees with a livable wage.
When the company proposed a fulfillment center in Miami-Dade County in Florida, it touted the ability to create at least 2,300 jobs with an average salary of $37,000. The county provided $1.5 million in tax rebates and a $5 million bond for infrastructure improvement. But by the end of negotiations, the number of jobs fell to 1,000 and the average salary dropped to between $24,018 and $27,500.
The online retailer is expected to account for about 50 percent of all U.S. online sales by 2021, according to a Forbes report. It currently accounts for about 34 percent.
The number of SNAP-reliant Amazon employees varied by state, according to the report. In five of the six states examined in the report, Amazon was among the top 20 companies with the largest number of employees enrolled in the SNAP program. One in three Amazon workers in Arizona relies on the program, while one in 10 of its employees in Pennsylvania and Ohio relies on SNAP.
Even in states where the online retail giant was not a top employer, it still ranked high among companies with employees on SNAP, including Kansas.
In a statement to Gizmodo, Amazon disputed that its employees are over-represented on the federal assistance program, saying the numbers in the Intercept report were skewed by the inclusion of part-time and seasonal workers.
The company said it created 130,000 in 2017 and that its fulfillment center workers are offered “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 per hour before overtime,” a company spokesperson said.
They also noted that full-time workers also received full health care coverage, including vision and dental, as well as parental leave benefits.