25 cents

Amazon, perhaps sensing the image of its warehouses as American sweatshops, is giving “damage control” raises to workers between 25 cents and 55 cents an hour.

The Washington Post reported Monday that when Amazon workers received notice they were getting the miniscule pay raises, their bosses were encouraging them to clap when they got the news. One Amazon worker in California told the Post the 40-cent hourly raise he got recently was the first such pay increase in four years.

“It wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough at all,” the worker, who asked to remain anonymous, told the outlet. “A 3 percent raise in four years — it feels like damage control.”

Quantified over an eight-hour shift, 25 cents more to 55 cents more per hour is a raise of anywhere from $2/day to $4.40/day, or $10/week to $22/week. Over the course of 52 weeks, that’s an additional $520/year to $1,144/year.

According to data compiled by job site Glassdoor, the average Amazon warehouse worker makes $13/hour, though wages can vary from $10/hour to $17/hour. An August 2018 report from the New Food Economy found that one-third of Amazon workers in Arizona, and one-tenth of Amazon workers in Ohio and Pennsylvania made so little they qualified for food stamps.

For a typical small business (the Small Business Administration defines a “small business” as any company with less than 1,500 employees, though it could also mean less than 500 employees), raising employees’ hourly wages by 25 cents to 55 cents might be all they could muster in a given year. However, Amazon is definitely not a small business, having been the second company in history to have broken the $1 trillion mark.

As Grit Post reported in July, Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos (officially the world’s richest man) saw his net worth expand by $50 billion in 2018 alone. Even though Bezos’ wealth is mostly invested in Amazon stock — trading at $1,975 as of 4:27 PM ET Tuesday afternoon — his net worth grows at an astonishing $252.5 million/day, $10.5 million/hour, or more than $175,000/minute. if his net worth continues to grow at that rate, Bezos will become $92 billion richer each year.

To put that in perspective, Amazon’s approximately 560,000 workers around the U.S. could all get a raise of $10/hour — equaling another $20,800/year before taxes — for a cost of $11.6 billion. Bezos could singlehandedly fund that raise and still be more than $80 billion richer at Amazon’s current rate of growth. Job site Adecco found that happier employees are typically 12 percent more productive, which means Amazon could very well grow even more given the increased morale that comes with having your hourly wage nearly doubled.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) made a similar argument on his verified Twitter account, calling for Bezos to raise all employees’ wages to $15/hour and provide them with benefits.

Sanders has been a vocal critic of Amazon’s business practices of paying employees so little they qualify for public assistance. Earlier this month, he introduced the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies (Stop BEZOS) Act, which taxes employers based on the number of workers that qualify for anti-poverty programs like Section 8 housing, food stamps, and Medicaid.

 

Logan Espinoza is a freelance contributor specializing in economic issues. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and daughter. Contact him at logan DOT espinoza AT yahoo DOT com.

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