Amazon.com, fighting back against the image of poor working conditions at its warehouses, has been calling workers around the country into “all-hands” meetings in the past week where they’ve been given raises – of 25 to 55 cents an hour, according to employees.
One worker, in San Bernardino, California, says the 40-cent bump to $13.15 (roughly Rs. 950) an hour is the first raise he has received since he began working at the company four years ago. Like the other Amazon workers in this report, he spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
“It wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough at all,” the worker said. “The HR manager in the room was like, ‘Aren’t you excited? Come on, clap!’ We started a slow clap, with no emotions on our faces. A 3 percent raise in four years – it feels like damage control.”
Amazon has also been showing animated videos promoting Amazon’s benefits packages at the meetings, according to workers.
The staff meetings and hourly raises come as Amazon faces continued scrutiny over the treatment and pay of its workers, particularly in its more than 100 U.S. fulfillment centers with 200,000 employees. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., this month introduced a bill calling on Amazon to pay a living wage to its employees, following reports that thousands of Amazon workers rely on federal assistance for food, housing and health care. The median Amazon worker was paid $28,446 last year, according to company filings.
A spokeswoman for Amazon said the company evaluates employee pay each year to make sure wages are competitive.
“Wage increases are standard practice for Amazon,” Ashley Robinson said in an email. “Sometimes the increases are on a rotational basis or determined by local demand so we can continue to attract local talent and retain existing employees.”
Amazon said full-time workers in its US fulfillment centers make an average hourly wage of over $15 an hour, which includes stock and incentive bonuses.
The tech giant has grown rapidly in recent years to become the nation’s second-largest private employer, and earlier this month was valued at $1 trillion. Its founder, Jeff Bezos, is now the world’s wealthiest man with a net worth of about $160 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. (Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)
Retailers around the country are offering higher pay and better benefits to attract seasonal workers in a tight labour market. Target, which plans to hire 120,000 temporary workers this holiday season is paying $12 an hour and offering a chance at $500 gift cards. Ulta is giving new hires half-price haircuts, while Williams-Sonoma is promising employee discounts of 40 percent. Amazon, which last year hired 120,000 seasonal workers, has yet to announce its holiday plans for this year.
In Orlando, an employee said about 150 workers were called into a meeting at the beginning of their shift last week. “The general message was that, with benefits, we’re being paid $15 an hour even though we’re only getting $11.25,” he said. (By the time the meeting was over, all of the employees had gotten a pay increase to $11.50 an hour. Full-time warehouse workers also receive benefits such as health insurance and restricted stock units.) “More money is more money, but a lot of us still don’t make enough money to not live paycheck to paycheck.”