Amazon’s minimum wage increase raises questions

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Last October, Amazon raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour in hopes of serving as a role model for other industries. Walmart will increase its minimum wage to $11 an hour, and Target is working toward $15 an hour by 2020, according to its corporate website.

Amazon hopes that the federal minimum wage will follow suit and implement similar changes.

Gregg Potter, Lehigh Valley’s Labor Council AFL-CIO, said he believes Amazon could be doing a lot better.

“Fifteen dollars an hour wage — that’s a drop in the bucket,” Potter said. “In the True Value Distribution Center, they start their folks with over $20 an hour with real benefits. In a manufacturing distribution situation like Ocean Spray, they also start at higher wages and better benefits, and Sam Adams is the same thing.”

However, employees that have been working for longer periods of time aren’t going to see a drastic increase in pay. Amazon also aims to phase out of its variable compensation pay and restricted stock units program to help pay for the increase. Employees are worried that the loss of stock rewards and monthly bonuses are not worth the wage raise.

Alan Jennings, head of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, said there shouldn’t be a need to cut bonuses.

“Jeff Bezos is the wealthiest man in the world,” he said. “He can afford this.”

Jennings said he thinks that Amazon is creating a beneficial shift in the industry, however. He said workers in warehouses all over Lehigh Valley aren’t making $15 an hour, so the pressure Amazon is putting on wages is positive. 

“Complaining about a $15 an hour minimum wage is a mistake,” Jennings said.

Jennings’ organization runs the Second Harvest Food Bank, which distributes 9 million pounds of food annually. The food bank has already had to increase wages as a result of the pressure from Amazon’s increase. 

Tony Iannelli, president and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, agrees that the increase is positive for workers. 

Moreover, Amazon’s wage increase doesn’t eliminate the working conditions that employees have to deal with. Jennings said he has heard the working conditions are not comfortable and dangerous.

“There were some issues relative to working conditions in the past, we’ve heard less concerns most recently,” Iannelli said. “We’re hoping the general sense is that it has improved just on the fact that we haven’t heard as much.”

Potter said that the only way to improve Amazon’s conditions is by implementing stricter workplace regulations.

“Until someone is forced to do something, until you’re forced to maintain clean waters around your facility, until you’re forced to contain the harmful emissions that go into the air that we breathe, people don’t do what you expect,” Potter said. “They do what you inspect.”

He also mentioned his concern with Amazon’s future goals. Potter said he feared the company’s partnership with U.S. Postal Service, UPS and FedEx because Amazon will be able to get their delivery practices without having to pay extra for others to do the work.

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3 Comments

  1. $15/hr isn’t even $29K a year, assuming workers get enough hours to call themselves fulltime. The only people who can live on that are single people in tiny apartments. You can’t pay school debt on that money, can’t keep a decent car running. You certainly can’t take care of a child, you’d be on welfare, and your kid would have to go to Head Start.

    Forget a 70% top marginal rate: if employers are walking around rich and refusing to pay the people who make the money for them enough to live on reasonably, go full Carter on them, bump it to 90%. If they want nicer tax brackets they can consider rejoining the human race.

  2. The left wing Dems are getting a little too crazy for me.
    These crazy new minimum wage laws are going to do
    NOTHING but send inflation into hyperdrive and senior
    citizens on fixed incomes will be the biggest losers in
    all this craziness.

    And I suspect many low wage earners will be forced
    to work part time and lose their health care benefits,
    vacation time etc

    It amazes me that so many politicians can’t figure
    this out for themselves.

    As soon as Trump is gone, I’m going back to being a
    Republican.

    I wish Trump would either resign or be impeached and
    allow Pence to run. Pence might actually have a chance to
    win the next election, depending on who the Dems run;
    and at least he wouldn’t be bringing down the entire party.

    The way things stand now, the Republicans are only going to
    win the cracker states.

    WRZ

  3. I am an Amazon employee and I dont think the wage we get paid is fair it’s more like them taking advantage of us by giving their employees so much to do .. they expect so much from us and all we want is a good pay each one of us probably deliveries up to 200 pakgs a day 4 days a week for 10 hrs with a 2 15 min brakes and a 30 min lunch which in reality I bet none of the workers actually take their 15 min brakes or less they would all be running late . But anyways back to the wage is my point is everytime I’m out their working and the customer asks if I’m getting paid enough it makes me wonder and say no because I’m not they always say we have to be at least making $18 dlls an hour . But I know It sounds crazy Right but honestly it is alot to do if u think about it their is so many people who call out I mean if these people actually saw their pockets filling up with money u think they would call out from work ?? Please I’ll I’m asking is to get an increase for all employees working for Amazon and the companies working for Amazon aka .. third party contractors…..

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