The world’s richest man has caved to pressure from his workers, activists, and Bernie Sanders and raised the minimum wage at Amazon to $15.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced Tuesday that, after fielding much criticism, the company would increase the baseline of its workers’ wages — affecting about 350,000 employees, including people who work at Whole Foods — and lobby for an increase in the minimum wage nationwide. The federal minimum wage is currently just $7.25.
“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,” Bezos said in a statement. “We’re excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, has personally taken on Amazon as an example of worker exploitation by powerful companies in the United States. In September, Sanders introduced the “Stop Bad Employers Zeroing Out Subsidies Act” (aka the Stop BEZOS Act) that would penalize large companies if their workers are relying on government benefits like food stamps or Medicaid to survive.
Sanders commended Bezos for the decision to raise the minimum wage at Amazon.
“What Mr. Bezos today has done is not only enormously important for Amazon’s hundreds of thousands of employees,” Sanders said at a news conference. “It could well be, and I think it will be, a shot heard around the world.”
Sanders applauded the “many hundreds” of Amazon workers who contacted his office in support of the Stop BEZOS Act, as well as service workers in the fast-food industry who pioneered the $15 minimum wage movement in the U.S. Sanders said there is no reason other corporations — like Walmart — should not follow Amazon’s lead.
“Bottom line is that, in the richest country in the history of the world, we are seeing massive levels of income and wealth inequality,” Sanders said. “In this country, our standard should be that if you work 40 hours a week, you should not be living in poverty. I hope very much that other corporate leaders around the country will follow [Bezos’s] example.”
Cover: Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, speaks at The Economic Club of Washington's Milestone Celebration in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)