Amazon Fires Back at Criticism of Warehouse Conditions

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Amazon Fires Back at Criticism of Warehouse ConditionsAdam Jiwan, Technology Entrepreneur

Bernie Sanders is fired up. His surrogate just won the Democratic nomination for the governorship of Florida, and his influence on the left side of politics seems to be growing, especially on social media. 

Recently, on Twitter, Sanders went after one of the world’s biggest and most powerful companies, criticizing Amazon publicly for what it pays its workers and for the conditions in which they work. Normally, Amazon ignores these kinds of attacks. President Trump goes after Jeff Bezos, Amazon, and The Washington Post, which Bezos owns, quite a bit, and the billionaire online merchant never flexes back.

This time, though, perhaps in deference to Sanders’ influence on a key target demographic, Bezos chose to take up the gauntlet and throw it back at the Senator, calling Sander’s comments about Amazon’s working conditions “misleading” among other things.

“We have been in regular contact with his office and have offered several opportunities for Senator Sanders and his team to tour one of our fulfillment centers… To date he has still not seen an FC for himself.”

And that was just beginning of Amazon’s full-court PR response. On the company blog, Amazon’s communications team released a statement that read, in part:

“While Senator Sanders plays politics and makes misleading accusations, we are expending real money and effort upskilling people… No one knows what it’s like to work in one of our fulfillment centers better than the skilled and dedicated people who do it every day. That’s why we are encouraging all employees to take Senator Sanders up on his request and respond with their actual experience.”

From there, the messaging continued to get hotter, with Sanders accusing Bezos of forcing his employees to depend on being “subsidized” by the government. Bezos, in the response on Amazon’s blog, admitted that some “new” or “part time” employees may indeed rely on food stamps, but that was not the case for his full-time workers.

“… for a full-time associate in our fulfillment centers… (pay) is over $15 per hour before overtime… We encourage anyone to compare our pay and benefits to other retailers…”

In this scenario, Sanders picked a narrative that has worked for him very well in the past and tried it against a skilled professional in the art of public perception. Bezos did not get where he is by backing away from a challenge, and, while he is often quiet when criticized, chose this moment to fire back with intensity. His message was specific and quippy, offering both strong soundbites and statistics that supporters can easily remember and promote. Throwing in a classic invitation for Sanders to come see for himself, in this case, is strong and effective counter-messaging.

 

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