The move affects more than 350,000 employees (from a global workforce of 575,000) who are in full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal roles. Workers in customer service or operations, some of whom already make $15 an hour, will get pay raises.
In the UK, Amazon said, the minimum wage will be 10.50 pounds an hour in London and 9.50 pounds in other areas. Those increases apply to 17,000 Amazon employees and 20,000 seasonal workers.
In announcing the minimum wage increase, a company spokesman predicted it will “have a profound impact on the lives of tens of millions of people and families across this country.”
Critics of the company’s compensation practices have included Sen. Bernie Sanders. The Vermont independent has attacked the company, along with Disney and Walmart, accusing them of paying workers so little that they have to rely on government assistance. Last month, he introduced a bill that would impose a 100% tax equal to the amount of federal aid received by employees. The title of the proposed legislation took aim at Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos: the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies (BEZOS) Act.
The company called the accusations by Sanders “false and misleading,” pointing to its creation of 130,000 new jobs over the past year.
In a brief news conference this morning, Sanders said he wanted to “offer credit where credit is due. I want to congratulate Mr. Bezos for doing exactly the right thing.” He added, “What Mr. Bezos has done today is not only important for Amazon’s hundreds of thousands of employees. It could well be, and I think it will be, the shot heard around the world. Mr. Bezos and Amazon are now leading the way.” Sanders called on retail, fast food and other industries to follow suit.