The news today that Amazon is raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour caught most people by surprise.
It was just a week ago that I wrote about the company giving out miserly 25 cent raises.
Some argue that today’s wage increase is due to low employment. That it is an example of the free market at work.
I don’t find that argument too convincing for a couple of reasons.
One, the raise was to $15, which is the specific wage that pro-worker groups and labor unions have been advocating for recently.
Two, the raise came at a time when Amazon is receiving negative press and publicity almost daily from the media, labor groups, and politicians. Bernie Sanders, for example, introduced a bill last month called the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies, or the Stop BEZOS Act, which would tax companies like Amazon for the public assistance received by their impoverished workers.
This move to $15 by America’s second largest private employer, and second largest company by market capitalization, is the third major success this year for American workers.
The first came from the wave of teacher strikes earlier in the year. Teachers in Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and other states gained much-needed salary increases and education funding through solidarity and labor activism. They went on strike, they protested, and they got their message out to the public. And it worked.
The second victory came in Missouri in August. When the state’s Republicans passed a “right to work” law last year, union and workers pushed for a referendum to overturn the law. Voters got their chance in August and defeated the anti-union law by a margin of two to one.
To quote Buffalo Springfield, there is something happening here. It’s a resurgence of labor. It’s a willingness by the average worker to stand up and fight, rather than roll over in the face of greed. Americans have had enough of poverty wages and they are not afraid to let companies like Amazon know. They are not afraid to overturn anti-worker laws. And they are not afraid to walk out of classrooms and into the state capitols.