On Amazon Raising Its Minimum Wage to $15

Amazon has announced today that it will raise its minimum wage to $15, an increase that stands to impact the incomes of more than 350,000 workers and their families. Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project (NELP), issued the following statement in response:

“With this announcement, Amazon joins the growing list of U.S. employers adopting a $15 minimum wage. Amazon’s decision reflects both a growing national consensus that wages need to be raised and an increasing acceptance of $15 as the new wage floor—two victories that belong, first and foremost, to the worker-led Fight for $15 movement.

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“By immediately raising pay for tens of thousands of workers in states stuck at the $7.25 federal minimum, Amazon’s move also highlights how outdated and inadequate the federal minimum wage is—and how workers in all 50 states need at least $15 an hour.

“Today’s announcement also illustrates how companies around the country are increasingly recognizing that higher wages can be good for both business and their employees. Target is phasing in a $15 minimum wage by 2020, for example, and Costco recently raised its starting wage to $14.

“Amazon’s announcement is further proof that large, profitable retailers can pay a $15 minimum wage—and puts pressure other low-wage chains like Walmart to join them.

“While this increase is an essential first step, it is crucial that it also apply to the thousands of men and women working in Amazon’s warehouses, call centers, and elsewhere who are on the payrolls of staffing firms and temporary agencies—as well as to drivers who deliver for Amazon, often without the certainty of employee status. All of these workers, who are often subject to lower wages, difficult scheduling practices, few or no benefits, substandard training, and other challenges, are an integral part of Amazon’s operations, and they too should enjoy this increase. Improving conditions for workers hired through temp and staffing agencies is imperative if companies and policymakers want to effectively address the effects of decades of declining wages and conditions across the economy.

“As an industry leader, Amazon has an opportunity to show how companies can and should create good jobs beyond just raising wages. If Amazon really wants to lead on workplace standards, as CEO Jeff Bezos says, the company must remedy the problems arising from its fast-paced production demands and use of on-demand scheduling; furthermore, it must address the failure to provide its entire workforce with basic benefits like health care or paid sick leave, failure to guarantee ​workers’ health and safety, and opposition to unions that workers need to have a real say at work. Amazon can also lead by ensuring that it uses temp agencies appropriately to fill temporary gaps in personnel, so that so-called ‘temporary’ workers are not relegated to permanent underclass status.

“Even now, Amazon port truck drivers and warehouse workers in California are striking to improve their conditions on the job. In addition to this wage increase for Amazon workers, the company needs to address rampant labor violations in its supply chains, including wage theft and the illegal misclassification of workers like those who are striking.

“The announced wage increase is an important step forward. But Amazon can surely do more. The company should take the next steps to show what shared prosperity can truly mean for companies and all the workers who make their success possible.​”

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