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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos challenged rival retailers to extend their minimal wages to $16 per hour, in his annual letter to shareholders launched on Thursday. Amazon in November had raised its personal minimal wage to $15 per hour, in response to the continuing criticism round pay disparity and poor working situations. Bezos instructed different retailers ought to comply with Amazon’s lead, or push it to do even higher.

“At present I problem our prime retail opponents (you already know who you might be!) to match our worker advantages and our $15 minimal wage,” Bezos wrote. “Do it! Higher but, go to $16 and throw the gauntlet again at us. It’s a sort of competitors that can profit everybody.”

The corporate additionally stated its wage hike benefitted greater than 250,000 Amazon workers, in addition to over 100,000 seasonal staff who labored at Amazon websites throughout the nation throughout the 2018 holidays.

“We strongly consider that this can profit our enterprise as we spend money on our workers. However that isn’t what drove the choice,” Bezos famous. “We had at all times provided aggressive wages. However we determined it was time to steer – to supply wages that went past aggressive. We did it as a result of it appeared like the precise factor to do.”

Surely, there was numerous exterior stress on Amazon to do higher by its lowest-wage earners – and, particularly its warehouse workers.

Final 12 months, Senator Bernie Sanders collected enter from Amazon staff throughout the U.S. prematurely of laws he was making ready to file in September, titled “BEZOS Act.” He discovered that the median wage for Amazon workers was round $28,000 per 12 months, however about half of Amazon staff fell below that quantity.

He additionally stated that many staff have been on public help, acquired Medicaid, foot stamps, or public housing.

The Senator identified that nothing that Amazon was doing was unlawful, however it was successfully benefiting from authorities subsidies to underpay its staff – understanding they’d be capable to use different technique of help for issues like meals, housing and medical care. In the meantime, Amazon’s billionaire founder Jeff Bezos had turn out to be the richest particular person on earth.

The BEZOS Act, which was launched by Sanders and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif), proposed to tax companies for each greenback their low-wage staff acquired in authorities help, together with well being care and meals stamps.

After Amazon introduced it could increase the minimal wage for all U.S. workers to $15 per hour in November, Sanders applauded the transfer.

“I need to give credit score the place credit score is due,” Sanders had stated. “What Mr. Bezos has finished immediately isn’t solely enormously essential for Amazon’s tons of of 1000’s of workers, it might effectively be, and I believe it will likely be, a shot heard around the globe.”

Amazon is no longer the one retailer elevating its minimal wages.

Earlier this month, Goal introduced it could increase its minimal hourly wage to $13 per hour in June – effectively above the federal minimal wage of $7.25, which hasn’t been elevated since 2009. It says it’s on observe for a $15 per hour minimal wage by 2020. Costco additionally this 12 months raised its hourly wage to $15 per hour, up from $14 per hour which it hit in June 2018.

Walmart, nevertheless,  nonetheless trails with a minimal wage of $11 per hour, regardless of a rise final 12 months it credited to the tax legislation modifications.

Along with his remarks – “you already know who you might be!” – Bezos is difficult Amazon’s rivals like Walmart and Goal to do higher, as their pay will increase nonetheless have Amazon within the lead.

However to some extent, the deal with pay and company advantages detracts from among the different criticism leveled in opposition to Amazon: the working situations in its warehouses.

These situations have been labeled “lethal and dehumanizing” by a New York labor union; have had staff pushing to unionize and protesting; and have been the topic of quite a few experiences within the press, together with horror tales about fixed surveillance, staff urinating in trash cans out of concern a break would have them lacking targets, well being considerations, and customarily feeling they’re being handled as robots.

These points weren’t addressed within the letter. As an alternative, Bezos centered on company perks, like Amazon’s Profession Alternative program, which pays as much as 95 p.c of tuition and costs in the direction of a certificates or diploma in certified fields of research; and its Amazon Future Engineer program, which help STEM and CS schooling within the U.S. for elementary, highschool, and college college students.

The letter additionally tries to make the case to antitrust regulators that Amazon shouldn’t be damaged up, as a result of , says Bezos, “third-party sellers are kicking our first get together butt. Badly.” And since the corporate solely represents a “low single-digit proportion of the retail market.”

The letter in full is on the market right here.

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