Amazon announced Tuesday it will raise its minimum wage for all American workers to $15 an hour starting next month, a major milestone for campaigners pushing for pay increases in light of rising levels of poverty and inequality.
The Seattle-based e-commerce giant’s announcement comes as Amazon has become associated with low-paid and low-quality work in recent years. The decision also comes amid an improving U.S. labor market, which has seen hourly wages growing and more Americans voluntarily leaving jobs, according to NBC News.
“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, as reported by NBC News. “We’re excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us.”
The current lowest wage paid to U.S. Amazon workers is $11 an hour, which means that the minimum rate will rise by 36 percent starting next month, The Guardian noted. Amazon employs 250,000 full-time workers in the U.S. and 575,000 worldwide, as per NBC News. The Guardian noted that the company will also raise the minimum wage for its U.K. workforce of about 40,000 employees.
The company also said Amazon will offer the increased minimum wage to “over 100,000 seasonal employees who will be hired at Amazon sites across the country this holiday season,” NBC News pointed out. In addition, Whole Foods employees and workers at other Amazon subsidiaries should also expect to be covered by the $15 minimum.
The decision to raise workers’ minimum wage comes after Amazon has faced years of intense criticism over a series of issues ranging from its tax affairs to employment practices. The change also comes after labor activists’ continued push for a national $15 minimum wage, a plea that became known as “Fight for $15,” NBC News noted. The push has been successful in some parts of the country, helping garner some support from states including California and New York, which have instituted the higher wages. However, many other states have maintained the $7.25 minimum hourly wage.
Known for its speed and efficiency among customers, the company has also gained a reputation among employees to place speed above workers’ safety, according to NBC News.
Other companies that have raised minimum wages include Walmart, which raised minimum wages for its 1 million workers to $11 an hour, and Target, which raised its minimum wage to $11 an hour late last year but has promised to up it to $15 by 2020, The Guardian pointed out.