Amazon announced on Tuesday, October 2, that it would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for employees in the United States. The raise will take effect November 1 and will affect full- and part-time, temporary, and seasonal employees, as well as Whole Foods Market employees.
In a statement, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said, “We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead. We’re excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us.”
The critics to whom Bezos refers likely include Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who in September introduced legislation that would require large corporations to reimburse the government for federal assistance like food stamps, Medicaid, and public housing received by their employees. In reference to Amazon, the bill is titled the Stop BEZOS Act. Critics as diverse as President Trump and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have recently accused Amazon of antitrust violations. And last month, Whole Foods Market workers sent an e-mail to the grocery chain’s employees across the country calling for unionization. As reported by The New Food Economy, the e-mail expressed fears surrounding imminent job cuts as a result of Amazon’s acquisition of the grocer.
In response to the news about Amazon’s wage increase, Sen. Sanders told Buzzfeed News, “I think you don’t become the richest guy in the world if you’re a dummy, and Bezos is no dummy. I think he looked around him and saw there was a whole lot of public sentiment against the richest person in the world paying wages that were unlivable and being a good businessman, he wanted to make sure that he could regain public confidence in what he was doing and in Amazon.”
Stacy Mitchell, director of the Community-Scaled Economy Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, told The New Food Economy, “My sense of this decision is that there’s a market dynamic that has necessitated Amazon paying higher wages,” particularly as Amazon plans to hire 100,000 seasonal employees for the holiday season.
Mitchell additionally pointed out that Amazon may be motivated by the fear of antitrust enforcement and by raising wages, it buys itself some goodwill with the public: “It’s an old playbook. Back in the early 1940s, when [A&P, a large grocery store chain] was under increased scrutiny for their market power, they cut a deal with the union and the farm groups that supplied them.”