He’s the world’s richest man and he just gave in to pressure from his workers, activists and even Sen. Bernie Sanders. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced on Tuesday that his company would raise the baseline of its workers wages. Amazon’s minimum wage will now be $15 an hour.
Bezos has fielded significant criticism and this decision will affect about 350,000 employees. It will include people who work at Whole Foods.
The federal minimum wage is less than half that number, it is currently just $7.25 an hour.
“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 (I-VT) has personally challenged 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.” This is also known as the Stop BEZOS Act. It 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 praised the “many hundreds” of Amazon workers who contacted his office in support of the Stop BEZOS Act. He 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.”