The policy will cover employees at Amazon subsidiaries, including Whole Foods, and well as seasonal and temporary employees. Amazon says that in total, this will cover 250,000 employees, plus 100,000 seasonal employees.
This comes as Amazon is facing increasing scrutiny over how its workers are treated and paid. Senator Bernie Sanders, for example, recently introduced legislation to end what he calls “corporate welfare” — and it’s pretty clear who he had in mind, since the bill was titled Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies (BEZOS).
Meanwhile, a group of Whole Foods workers have been pushing to unionize, with demands that included a $15 minimum wage.
“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,” said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in the announcement. “We’re excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us.”
Amazon says its existing benefits will not change, except that its RSU stock grant program will be phased out for hourly fulfillment and customer service employees and replaced with a direct stock purchase plan, supposedly because those employees “prefer the predictability and immediacy of cash to RSUs.”
In addition, the company also pledges its public policy team will lobby for an increase to the federal minimum wage from $7.25 — it doesn’t identify a specific wage that it’s targeting, but instead says, “We believe $7.25 is too low. We would look to Congress to decide the parameters of a new, higher federal minimum wage.”
It remains to be seen whether Amazon’s critics are satisfied with these moves.