Amazon is instituting a new $15 minimum wage for all of its U.S. employees, including those at its subsidiary Whole Foods, starting on Nov. 1. The wage increase will apply to more than 250,000 full-time, part-time, and temp employees, along with more than 100,000 seasonal holiday workers. U.K. employees will also see a raise from their 8.50 GBP minimum wage to 9.50 pounds in most areas, and to 10.50 pounds in London, where the cost of living is higher.
“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a press release announcing the change. “We’re excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us.” The company’s public policy team plans to start lobbying Congress to raise the U.S.’s $7.25 federal minimum wage.
Labor advocates have long condemned Amazon’s compensation and treatment of its warehouse workers. One of its most active and high-profile critics in recent months has been Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who decried the previous $28,000 median salary for Amazon employees and alleged that one out of three workers in Arizona are on public assistance in an interview with TechCrunch. On social media, he also repeatedly highlighted the yawning income gap between Bezos and his employees. Amazon responded by having its fulfillment center employees create their own Twitter accounts to push back at this and other narratives of insufficient pay and poor workplace conditions. In September, Sanders introduced the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies (BEZOS) Act, which would institute a 100 percent tax on companies equal to the amount of federal benefits that its low-wage workers receive.
Sanders changed his tune somewhat during a press conference on Tuesday in response to Amazon’s decision. “Today I want to give credit where credit is due,” he said. “I want to congratulate Mr. Bezos for doing exactly the right thing.” He further called on retail, fast food, and other industries to follow Amazon’s example. California Rep. Ro Khanna, who introduced the BEZOS Act along with Sanders, also applauded Amazon’s decision.
Walmart raised the minimum wage for its employees to $11 per hour in 2018, and the Walt Disney Company raised it to $15 for some of its Disney World workers earlier this year as well. Target raised its starting level to $12 per hour in September and is planning to have a $15 minimum wage by 2020.
Correction, Oct. 2: This post originally stated that Target’s minimum wage is $11. It is currently $12.