Senator Bernie Sanders recently came up with a new business to attack: Amazon. Sanders said Amazon didn’t pay its workers enough and because of that, many qualified for government assistance.
At first, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos defended his company.
That was the right thing to do, says John Stossel. He notes: “It’s not companies’ fault that some workers qualify for handouts. More people would collect them if Amazon were not hiring. By creating jobs, Bezos gives workers better choices.”
But the media rarely mention that. Instead, they bombarded Amazon with negative coverage.
So Bezos caved. He declared that all Amazon workers would now all be paid $15 an hour or more. That higher wage sounds good to most people, but Stossel point out that while the higher minimum is good for workers who have jobs now, it can shut out beginners.
Kelsey Holder (now Kelsey Turner) started working at age 13, for minimum wage, at Mossman’s Coffee Shops and Catering Company in Bakersfield, California.
By the time Stossel interviewed her in 2010, she was making $20 an hour. She told him: “For being only 13 … minimum wage was fine. If you work hard, you can make more, it’s just you have to prove yourself.”
The skills she learned through work — even at minimum wage — served her well. Kelsie is now the restaurant’s manager.
Had the minimum wage been higher when she started, she may never have gotten that opportunity.
When Amazon sets a high minimum wage at their own company, Stossel notes, at least unskilled workers can find jobs at other companies.
But Amazon did not stop there. It has also begun lobbying for the government to force all its competitors to pay a higher minimum wage.
That could help Amazon, Stossel says: “Amazon’s already replacing workers with robots. Bezos knows a higher minimum wage will hurt his competitors more than it hurts him.”
Amazon often tries to get favors from government. It didn’t just announce a second headquarters. It started a competition to see which politicians would give it the largest tax incentives.
“Give me a break,” Stossel says. “Politicians shouldn’t pander to companies, and companies shouldn’t pander to politicians. I wish Bezos would stick to innovating, not scheming with politicians to get special breaks. Some of the worst enemies of capitalism are capitalists.”