Amazon recently announced that effective November 1, 2018, it will be raising its minimum wage to $15 per hour for its United States employees, including those at the grocery store Whole Foods, as well as part-time, temporary and seasonal workers. The new wages will not apply to contract workers. Amazon is also raising wages for British employees to a minimum of £10.50 ($13.61) for workers in London and £9.50 ($12.31) in the rest of the country.
This decision is said to be largely the result of the criticism the company and CEO Jeff Bezos has faced for Amazon’s work conditions and pay disparity. Currently, Amazon’s starting pay varies by location. In 2017, the median Amazon employee earned just under $28,500, according to company filings. A recent New York Times article pointed out that while retailers like Sears and Toys “R” Us have shut down or experienced layoffs, jobs at Amazon’s warehouses and sorting centers have boomed. The company now employs about 575,000 people worldwide, up more than 50 percent in the past year. However, the pay of those workers has become a growing issue for activists, especially as the wealth of Amazon and Bezos have grown significantly.
“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead," Bezos said in a statement. “We’re excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us.”
Amazon’s increase is more than double the federal minimum. The announcement is part of a growing trend of private employers and state and local agencies raising the minimum wage on their own while the federal minimum wage has remained the same for almost 10 years. In its September press release, Target announced that all team members hired after Sept. 16, 2018 will begin at $12 an hour minimum wage, part of Target’s commitment to increasing its minimum hourly wage to $15 per hour by the end of 2020. Walmart increased its starting wage rate for hourly employees in the United States to $11 in February 2018.