Pressured Amazon Boosts Minimum Wage to $15

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Amazon raised its minimum wage to $15, above the level of several other major retailers. The Seattle, Washington-based e-commerce giant was recently accused of paying workers at levels that pushed workers below the poverty level. The increase is effective on Nov. 1.

Amazon said the bump will include all full-time, part-time, seasonal, and temporary workers. It added that nearly 250,000 full-time workers will benefit along with 100,000 seasonal employees. Most of these people are hired during the holiday season, which starts in less than two months.

Currently, several other large retailers have national or local minimum wage policies. McDonald’s pays $1 above the minimum wage above the local level where its stores are based. Walmart raised it minimum wage to $11 early this year. It said the corporate benefits of the new tax law allowed it to do so.  Some experts say these levels are still not adequate to keep some workers above the poverty level. The national minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

Some outsiders believe that Amazon made the decision because of legislation Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders penned recently. The Sanders bill is titled “Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies.” The initials read Stop BEZOS Act. Bezos is generally considered the richest man in the world, with a net worth above $150 billion.

The Stop BEZOS Act is meant to levy a tax on Amazon to cover costs equivalent to what the federal government pays Amazon workers who receive food stamps, healthcare, and housing assistance. When Sanders introduced the bill, he said “We do not believe that taxpayers should have to expend huge sums of money subsidizing profitable corporations owned by some of the wealthiest people in this country. That’s what a rigged economy is about.”

Amazon’s new minimum wage would be more than the double the federal minimum. Some states have higher minimums. New York state, for example, has mandated that the minimum wage be $10.75, which will rise to $15 an hour in July 2021. The National Employment Law Project reported that the minimum wage rose in 18 states and 19 cities at the start of this year.

Amazon said it would support a separate initiative to raise the federal minimum wage. Jay Carney, senior vice president of Amazon Global Corporate Affairs., said in a press release “We will be working to gain Congressional support for an increase in the federal minimum wage. The current rate of $7.25 was set nearly a decade ago. We intend to advocate for a minimum wage increase that will have a profound impact on the lives of tens of millions of people and families across this country.”

Amazon joins a trend among large retailers who have improved worker compensation at a time when state and local government are also moving in that direction.