Dis­ap­pointed Ama­zon work­ers call raises ‘dam­age con­trol’

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Money - By Abha Bhat­tarai

Ama­zon.com, fight­ing back against the im­age of poor work­ing con­di­tions at its ware­houses, has been calling work­ers around the coun­try into “all-hands” meet­ings in the past week where they’ve been given raises of 25 cents to 55 cents an hour, ac­cord­ing to em­ploy­ees.

One worker, in San Bernardino, Calif., said the

40-cent bump to $13.15 an hour is the first raise he has re­ceived since he be­gan work­ing at the com­pany four years ago. Like the other Ama­zon work­ers in this re­port, he spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

“It wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough at all,” the worker said. “The HR man­ager in the room was like, ‘Aren’t you ex­cited? Come on, clap!’ We started a slow clap, with no emo­tions on our faces. A 3 per­cent raise in four years — it feels like dam­age con­trol.”

Work­ers in other parts of the coun­try also re­ported raises: 25 cents in Or­lando;

35 cents in Cop­pell, Texas; and 55 cents in He­bron, Ky. That brings their pay to be­tween $11.50 and $15.05 an hour, af­ter raises rang­ing from 2 to 4 per­cent.

The staff meet­ings and hourly raises come as Ama­zon faces con­tin­ued scru­tiny over the treat­ment and pay of its work­ers, par­tic­u­larly in its more than 100 U.S. ful­fill­ment cen­ters with 200,000 em­ploy­ees. Sen. Bernie San­ders, I-Vt., this month in­tro­duced a bill calling on Ama­zon to pay a liv­ing wage to its em­ploy­ees, fol­low­ing re­ports that thou­sands of Ama­zon work­ers rely on fed­eral as­sis­tance for food, hous­ing and health care. The me­dian Ama­zon worker was paid $28,446 last year, ac­cord­ing to com­pany fil­ings.

A spokes­woman for Ama­zon said the com­pany eval­u­ates em­ployee pay each year to make sure wages are com­pet­i­tive.

“Wage in­creases are stan­dard prac­tice for Ama­zon,” Ash­ley Robin­son said in an email. “Some­times the in­creases are on a ro­ta­tional ba­sis or de­ter­mined by lo­cal de­mand so we can con­tinue to at­tract lo­cal ta­lent and re­tain ex­ist­ing em­ploy­ees.”

Ama­zon said full-time work­ers in its U.S. ful­fill­ment cen­ters make an av­er­age hourly wage of over $15 an hour, which in­cludes stock and in­cen­tive bonuses.

The re­tail gi­ant has grown rapidly to be­come the na­tion’s se­cond-largest pri­vate em­ployer, and ear­lier this month was val­ued at

$1 tril­lion. Its founder, Jeff Be­zos, is now the world’s wealth­i­est man with a net worth of about $160 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the Bloomberg Bil­lion­aires In­dex.

Re­tail­ers around the coun­try are of­fer­ing higher pay and bet­ter ben­e­fits to at­tract sea­sonal work­ers in a tight la­bor mar­ket. Tar­get, which plans to hire 120,000 tem­po­rary work­ers this hol­i­day sea­son is pay­ing

$12 an hour and of­fer­ing a chance at $500 gift cards. Ulta is giv­ing new hires half-price hair­cuts, while Wil­liams-Sonoma is promis­ing em­ployee dis­counts of

40 per­cent.

In Or­lando, an em­ployee said about 150 work­ers were called into a meet­ing at the be­gin­ning of their shift last week. “The gen­eral mes­sage was that, with ben­e­fits, we’re be­ing paid

$15 an hour even though we’re only get­ting $11.25,” he said. (By the time the meet­ing was over, all of the em­ploy­ees had got­ten a pay in­crease to $11.50 an hour. Full-time ware­house work­ers also re­ceive ben­e­fits such as health in­sur­ance and re­stricted stock units.) “More money is more money, but a lot of us still don’t make enough money to not live pay­check to pay­check.”

RODGER MALLISON/FORT WORTH STAR-TELE­GRAM

Em­ploy­ees pre­pare or­ders for ship­ping at an Ama­zon ful­fill­ment cen­ter in Texas.

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