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Amazon Heads into Holidays with Minimum Wage Hike for US Workers

Months of lobbying Amazon for a minimum-wage boost have paid off for hundreds of thousands of low-earning employees who will see fatter paychecks starting Nov. 1.

The Seattle-based company, which employs 575,000 people worldwide, said the $15 hourly wage increase affects more than 200,000 permanent employees and another 100,000 seasonal workers in the U.S., inclusive of those who get their foot in the door through a temp agency.

In the U.K., workers in and around London area will see per-hour pay lifted to 10.50 pounds ($13.63), while elsewhere in the country Amazon will pay a minimum of 9.50 pounds ($12.33). As in the U.S., the wage increase applies to all full-time, part-time and temporary employees, the company noted.

Doug Gurr, Amazon VP and U.K. country manager, said the minimum wage hike “will impact more than 37,000 employees across the country, resulting in higher pay for them and their families.” That 37,000 figures includes the 20,000 seasonal hires Amazon is projecting for the holiday season.

In announcing the news, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos admitted the company “listened to our critics,” adding that the online seller “decided we wanted to lead,” though that assertion contradicts the months of highly public pressure from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and others who have launched all-out campaigns aimed at getting one of the world’s most valuable companies to improve conditions for its lowest earners. In the petition posted on his website, Sanders said the fact that Bezos—the world’s richest man—rakes in more money in 10 seconds than the median Amazon employee does all year is “absurd.”

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Amazon also called on its competitors and fellow mega-corporations to step up and raise their minimum wage. SVP of Amazon global corporate affairs Jay Carney said the company plans to lobby Congress to boost the federal minimum, noting that the current $7.25 hourly compensation was enacted more than a decade ago.

“We intend to advocate for a minimum wage increase that will have a profound impact on the lives of tens of millions of people and families across this country,” Carney said.

Raising its minimum wage to $15 as could boost some goodwill for and refurbish the reputation of a company that has seen numerous protests worldwide calling attention to the allegedly questionable conditions in its fulfillment centers. Amazon also took some heat for a quorum of Twitter ambassadors who painted a picture of a rosy work life inside those warehouses; after initially claiming those ambassadors weren’t being paid to post, the tech giant admitted they did receive compensation for their social sharing.

Moody’s Lead Retail Analyst Charlie O’Shea said Amazon’s decision to raise the minimum wage is a “positive” move even though it will drive up the company’s costs. With unemployment numbers shrinking, the battle for workers is fierce, especially as the ramp-up to Black Friday weekend is well underway.

“Attracting, and then retaining, quality employees is critical for the ultimate success of any retailer, with benefits ranging from reduced hiring and training costs to improved production and employee morale,” O’Shea said, continuing, “both of which trickle down to the consumer in the form of better service and an improved overall experience for shoppers.”