After months of intense public pressure from progressive lawmakers like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and company employees who shared their harrowing stories of low pay, long hours, and brutal warehouse conditions, Amazon announced on Tuesday that it is raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour for all of its U.S. workers by next month.
“I think the workers have stood up and fought back.”
—Sen. Bernie Sanders”We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,” Amazon CEO and world’s richest man Jeff Bezos said in a statement, openly acknowledging that the move came in response to widespread outrage over the trillion-dollar company’s poverty wages, which have forced thousands of workers to rely on food stamps to survive.
While Bezos insisted that Amazon is “excited” to implement the wage hike—which will benefit more than 350,000 full-time, part-time, and seasonal workers—commentators were quick to note that the ultra-billionaire CEO is not raising wages out of the kindness of his heart.
“Amazon isn’t doing this because they’re nice,” investigative journalist Ken Klippenstein noted in response to Amazon’s announcement of the wage hikes, which will go into effect Nov. 1. “Public pressure forced them to.”
While progressives were quick to highlight Sanders’ role in bringing about the wage hikes—the senator has hosted town halls, held rallies, and introduced legislation to pressure Amazon to pay its employees a living wage—Sanders told the Huffington Post in an interview ahead of Tuesday’s announcement that all credit for higher pay and better conditions should go to workers.
“This is huge, and I suspect the decision’s driver was primarily a scruffy-haired Senator from Vermont.”
—Stephanie Kelton, economist
“I think the workers have stood up and fought back,” Sanders said. “What we have done is call attention to the fact that it is a disgrace that the wealthiest person in this country and in this world are paying wages so low that workers are forced to go on food stamps and Medicaid.”
“I think the pressure is building not only on Bezos and Amazon but every other employer in America: Pay your workers a living wage, at least 15 bucks an hour,” Sanders concluded.