Last week, Amazon announced it would start paying all its warehouse workers a minimum of $15 an hour. Now, after receiving backlash that an increase in warehouse wages to $15 an hour would actually hurt some of its workers, Amazon said it will adjust some payment plans so that workers will not lose money.
The wage increase came on the heels of a long-running grassroots campaign from workers and labor advocates alike for better wages from one of the most powerful companies in the world, which is run by the wealthiest man in history. The move was widely applauded and even received praise from Sen. Bernie Sanders, who’s long been a critic of both Amazon warehouse practices and Jeff Bezos’s wealth.
But amid the celebration, some warehouse workers complained that the new payment system would actually hurt them. Amazon’s announcement of the pay increase came with the news that it was eliminating stock options and bonuses, which would ultimately reduce the compensation of some workers. Longtime Amazon warehouse workers were particularly upset, since plenty of them relied on bonuses and the value of Amazon’s stock; one told the Seattle Times that the wage adjustment was “a slap in the face.” Some workers have even quit in protest.
Now, Bloomberg reports, Amazon is granting additional raises that would help with the loss of stock and bonuses. The planned raise of $1 an hour for workers already earning an hourly $15 will be increased, with some receiving a bump as high as $2 an hour. Additionally, stock awards that are given to employees on work anniversaries will be replaced with cash bonuses of $1,500 after five years, and $3,000 for every five years after that. To incentivize workers during the busy holiday season, workers will also receive a $100 bonus during the grueling month of December if they keep up with attendance. These changes to the Amazon payment system will go into effect in November.
“We are continuing to roll out the details of all these changes to employees this week,” an Amazon spokesperson told the Seattle Times. “We have been adjusting site-by-site and person-by-person as needed since the announcement to ensure everyone experiences the benefit of this change.”
Amazon listening to its critics signals a pivotal moment for the company, which recently hit $1 trillion in market value and which is expected to nab half of the US’s online sales by the end of this year. The company has long been accused of poor work conditions inside its American and international warehouses. On Prime Day in July, workers went on strike to protest conditions like poor air quality, timed bathroom and lunch breaks, and constant video surveillance. One warehouse worker told Vox that his Amazon job brought him to “the lowest point in my life.”
The company has 566,000 workers around the world, not including third-party workers and independent contractors. Some have spoken out about low Amazon wages; data also found that one in three Amazon employees living in Arizona rely on food stamps.
Meanwhile, the company reported almost $178 billion in revenue in 2017, and Bezos has a net worth of about $142.2 billion, according to Forbes. To many, Amazon has become the epitome of income inequality, and addressing these issues — and the poor public perception they create — is crucial for the company’s continued success.
Amazon has the structures and the money to pay all its employees a living wage. Its latest move might be in the service of making sure it comes out favorably in the public eye. But the fact that it’s actually taking feedback and implementing changes might also signal that Amazon is no longer the isolated business powerhouse it once was, and that it realizes it must make changes for the long-term health of the company.