’s limited concession on poverty wages

This 2 October 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Bezos Worth 10 Billion Times Amazon Worker’s Hourly Wage

Anya Parampil reports on Amazon’s announcement that it will raise its minimum wage in the US to $15.00 per hour. Anya digs deeper, finding that low wages are just the beginning of Amazon’s problems. Professor Richard Wolff, Co-Founder of “Democracy at Work” joins In Question to discuss who actually produces the company’s wealth: Bezos or his workers?

By Jerry White in the USA:

What’s behind Amazon’s plan to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour?

3 October 2018

With great fanfare on Tuesday, Amazon announced it will raise the minimum wage it pays to 250,000 workers and 100,000 seasonal temps to $15 an hour. In the United Kingdom, the company is raising the wages of 40,000 permanent and temporary workers to £10.50 (US $13.69) an hour in London and £9.50 (US $12.39) across the rest of the country.

The wage increases, which will go into effect for Amazon and Whole Foods workers on November 1, are a response to the deep opposition of Amazon workers to the poverty level wages and brutal working conditions at the giant retail and logistics company. The growing militancy of Amazon workers is, moreover, part of a wider sentiment among workers in the US and internationally, who after a decade of declining real wages since the 2008 financial crash are determined to fight for substantial improvements.

The pay increase, however, is minimal and will do little to improve the living standards of Amazon workers. The median Amazon worker was paid $28,446 last year, according to company filings, which comes out to about $13.68 an hour. An increase to $15.00 an hour—$1.32 more for the median worker—would amount to a yearly wage of $30,000. This is 120 percent of the official poverty rate for a family of four and will do little to help workers keep their heads above water, particularly in urban centers with higher costs of living.

Internal company documents available to Amazon workers make clear that the raise will be accompanied by the elimination of various incentive bonuses and other programs, which workers rely on to help with bills and car payments. This includes all or parts of the Variable Compensation Plan (VCP) and MyReward bonuses based on attendance and site performance goals. Also cut is the limited stock vesting program, known as the Restricted Stock Units (RSU) plan.

“We are phasing out the incentive pay component and the $15 will be simple minimum with no targets required”, one message from the company to workers said. Another read, “We will be phasing out the RSU grant program for stock which would vest in 2020 and 2021 … replacing it with a direct stock purchase plan before the end of 2019.”

According to Amazon, full-time workers at its US fulfillment centers already make an average hourly wage of over $15 an hour, including stock and incentive bonuses. It is not clear, therefore, if workers will see any net benefit from the much-promoted raise.

“At first, I thought, $15 an hour, that’s a start. But when you do the math, it does not add up to very much”, Shannon Allen, a worker from Amazon’s fulfillment center in Haslet, Texas, who became homeless after suffering a serious workplace injury, told the International Amazon Workers Voice.

“There will be a raise, but they are taking away our bonus at the end of the month and the stocks we were entitled to. Workers are still not getting medical treatment after getting injured. Workers are still starving. Workers are still homeless. What about the workers in India? Are they going to get $15 too or are they still going to be getting $267 a month? I would love to know that”, Allen said.

The move by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was carefully orchestrated with the Democratic Party to bolster the image of the company. Last month, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders introduced legislation, called the Bezos Act, to tax corporations for what their low-wage workers receive in government health-care benefits or food stamps.

To call $15 a “living wage” is ludicrous. The average hourly wage in manufacturing four decades ago would be the equivalent of $23 an hour in 2018 dollars. …

The billionaire CEO is not being motivated by high ideals but by cold, hard cash considerations. With the official unemployment rate falling to the lowest level in nearly two decades, large employers like Amazon are increasingly competing for workers, particularly for the upcoming holiday rush. In January, Walmart raised its minimum wage to $11. Facebook boosted its minimum wage for janitorial staff, food-service workers and other contractors to $15 an hour and Costco pays $14 an hour. 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.

Amazon’s move takes place after the company’s proposal last month for 2 to 4 percent raises was met with disgust from workers. “It wasn’t enough at all”, one part-time worker in San Bernardino, California, told Bezos’ Washington Post about a 40-cent increase that would raise her pay to $13.15. “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.”

After a four-decade decline in real wages, workers are earning barely enough to subsist. If some employers are raising wages it is because they need workers in their factories to pump profits out of them. Analysts have already said the meager raise will have no negative effect on the bottom line of the company whose market capitalization reached $1 trillion last month.

Nor will it make a dent on Jeff Bezos, whose net worth increased to $165 billion earlier this summer making him the richest man in modern history. If this wealth was divided equally among Amazon’s global employees, each would get a check for $300,000.

Whatever raise is given to Amazon workers will be more than made up through ever greater exploitation, higher pace, and more workplace injuries. The company already uses electronic devices to monitor productivity and time workers during their bathroom breaks and now new technology is being tested that will use sound pulses to redirect a worker’s hand if he moves it in the wrong direction while moving items from a bin to a delivery box.

It is well worth examining what Bezos is doing from the standpoint of history. More than a century ago another corporate magnate, Henry Ford, more than doubled the wages of his workers, raising them to $5 per day, from about $2.38 a day. The move was not motivated by a sudden burst of generosity from Ford, then the richest man in the world.

Instead, Ford wanted to lower the turnover rate at his Highland Park, Michigan, factory where workers were leaving in droves because of brutal speed up on the new assembly lines. Ford was also alarmed by the growing support for socialist and labor organizers. After introducing the new wage in 1914, his profits doubled, and Ford declared two years later, “The payment of $5 a day for an eight-hour day was one of the finest cost-cutting moves we ever made.”

But securing the right to good-paying and safe jobs will not be possible without building a powerful movement of the working class and carrying out a frontal assault on the entrenched wealth and political power of the corporate and financial oligarchy. To initiate this, the International Amazon Workers Voice is fighting for the formation of rank-and-file factory and workplace committees … . This must be combined with a political struggle by workers to overthrow the economic and political dictatorship of the capitalist exploiters, expropriate their fortunes, and transform giant corporations like Amazon into public enterprises, collectively owned and democratically controlled by the working class.

THANK BERNIE FOR AMAZON WAGE HIKE Amazon said it is raising the minimum wage for more than 350,000 of its workers, so that permanent and seasonal employees will make at least $15 an hour. What prompted the shift? Possibly Bernie Sanders’ “Stop BEZOS” bill, which had little chance of becoming law, but shined enough light on the company’s practices to shame it into a wage hike. [HuffPost]

AMAZON CUTS COMPENSATION TO PAY FOR NEW MINIMUM WAGE Amazon announced that starting next month all its workers will receive at least $15 per hour in wages. Well done Jeff Bezos? Not so fast. Workers are complaining that the retailer is making other changes to employees’ compensation that could lead to an overall decrease in their pay packet. [HuffPost]

Amazon’s Minimum Wage Hike Is Not What It Seems. Some workers say that they will lose thousands of dollars as a result of stock programs being eliminated: here.

Amazon whistleblower Shannon Allen: Celebrated $15 base pay represents pay cut for some workers: here.

Amazon has raised the minimum pay for its employees — except for these workers.

21 thoughts on “’s limited concession on poverty wages

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  9. After Raising Hourly Wages to $15, Amazon-Owned Whole Foods Reportedly Slashed Workers’ Hours. ‘While Amazon caved in to massive public pressure last fall and raised all company wages to at least $15 per hour – including at its subsidiary Whole Foods Market – in the months since, workers at the popular grocery chain have had their hours cut, negating their raises.

    ‘Just about every person on our team has complained about their hours being cut. Some have had to look for other jobs as they can’t make ends meet,’ – said a Whole Foods worker in California.

    The Guardian reported on those cuts last Wednesday, citing interviews with workers at Whole Foods stores in Illinois, California, Maryland, and Oregon, as well as emails and schedules the employees shared with the paper.

    Workers who remained unnamed due to fears of retaliation said internal emails show the cuts to employees’ hours have come at the direction of regional management. An employee in Illinois, who provided schedules from November 1st – when the wage increase took effect – through to the end of January, said that part-time workers at their location had seen weekly hours reduced from an average of 30 to 21 while full-time workers saw an average drop from 37.5 to 34.5 hours per week.

    ‘At my store all full-time team members are 36 to 38 hours per week now,’ said a worker in Oregon. ‘So what workers do if they want a full 40 hours is take a little bit of their paid time off each week to fill their hours to 40. Doing the same thing myself.’

    Meanwhile, in Maryland, an employee said regional management has cut full-time workers’ hours from 40 to 36 per week. ‘This hours cut makes that raise pointless as people are losing more than they gained and we rely on working full shifts,’ the worker said.

    ‘The cuts have taken a toll on both workers’ pay cheques and workplace environment,’ said a California-based employee, ‘which carries over to customers. ‘Things that have made it more noticeable are the long lines, the need to call for a cashier and bagging assistance, and customers not being able to find help in certain departments because not enough are scheduled, and we are a big store…

    ‘Just about every person on our team has complained about their hours being cut. Some have had to look for other jobs as they can’t make ends meet. ‘There are many team members working at Whole Foods today whose total compensation is actually less than what it was before the wage increase due to these labour reductions,’ said a spokesperson for Whole Worker – which started organising for a Whole Foods employee union shortly before Amazon’s wage hike.

    Whole Foods and Amazon did not respond to the paper’s multiple requests for comment. However, this is far from the first time the high-end grocery chain and its parent company – owned by the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos – have come under fire for anti-worker practices.

    Frustration with Whole Foods’ well established anti-worker reputation and Amazon’s 2017 takeover led to the union push, which Amazon has tried to quash. A training video that teaches management how to detect ‘early warning signs of potential organising’ was leaked to the media in late September.

    In early October, Amazon announced it would raise workers’ hourly wages. That came less than a month after Senator. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) introduced the cleverly named Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies (BEZOS) Act, which would force hugely profitable companies such as Amazon and Walmart to pay a corporate welfare tax that matches the amount of public assistance their employees receive.

    Whole Foods workers’ ongoing fight to be paid enough money to survive comes amid mounting national pressure to raise wages. Just last month, Illinois became the fifth state to require a $15 hourly minimum wage. In January, Sanders and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va) introduced the Raise the Wage Act of 2019, which, according to the Economic Policy Institute, would boost the incomes of nearly 40 million Americans across the country.


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