Amid mounting public pressure to increase working conditions and benefits, Amazon plans to increase its minimum wage to $15 an hour beginning next month, the company announced on Tuesday.
The pay increase will affect more than 250,000 full and part time Amazon employees, as well as 100,000 seasonal workers, and will extend to the grocery chain Whole Foods, an Amazon subsidiary.
“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and CEO. “We’re excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us.”
The company also announced that its public-policy team will begin lobbying the federal government to increase the mandatory minimum wage from $7.25, where it has stood since 2009.
“We intend to advocate for a minimum wage increase that will have a profound impact on the lives of tens of millions of people and families across this country,” Jay Carney, senior vice president of Amazon global corporate affairs, said in a statement. (Carney was also White House press secretary under the Barack Obama administration.)
Amazon has come under sharp scrutiny from Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who frequently maligns the massive firm for underpaying its warehouse employees as its CEO collects hundreds of billions in profit.
The median pay for an Amazon employee is $28,446 worldwide and starting pay varies based on location.
Analysts have suggested the pay hike may reflect an increasingly tight labor market as much as a capitulation to public pressure. The company must keep pace with other large retailers such as Target and Walmart, both of which increased their starting wages in the past year.