Why it matters: Employing more than 575,000 people globally, Amazon is now going to lobby Congress for a federal minimum wage increase. Amazon's own staff will all be making at least $15 an hour with substantial benefits not found at traditional minimum wage jobs.
Starting on November 1, all employees of Amazon including those working under temporary staffing agencies will be paid at least $15 per hour. The pay raise also applies to Whole Foods employees and all other subsidiaries. According to Amazon, more than 250,000 employees including over 100,000 seasonal workers will benefit from the increased pay.
Amazon has been under scrutiny by critics for less than ideal working conditions and has had its share of horror stories written by former employees. Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos says, "We’re excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us."
In addition to raising the bottom end of its pay scale, Amazon's public policy team will start to lobby for increasing the federal minimum wage. "We will be working to gain Congressional support for an increase in the federal minimum wage," declared Jay Carney, Senior Vice President of Amazon Global Corporate Affairs.
Employees working in Operations and Customer Service currently make around $15 an hour already. Fortunately, Amazon is also promising these employees a pay raise to show that they are still valued.
Aside from the wage hike, Amazon still offers a variety of other benefits that are rarely found at minimum wage jobs. Comprehensive healthcare with medical, dental, and vision coverage as well as compensation for life and disability insurance are standard. Planning for retirement is made a little easier with 401k matching. Parents, both mothers and fathers, can receive up to 20 weeks of paid leave.
One key change however, is Amazon's restricted stock unit program. Instead of offering stock grants that take a few years to vest, employees will be given direct purchase opportunities. Low wage employees have been asking for more cash to be immediately available instead of having to wait years to make use of their full compensation.
Even though Amazon would prefer to keep employee retention as high as possible, a Career Choice program pays for 95 percent of tuition in high-demand fields that Amazon needs more skilled employees in. By doing so, Amazon fully recognizes that some personnel may jump ship and take their new skills with them but continues to run the program to support its employees and fill open positions.