Amazon exec Jay Carney pens letter in support of $15 minimum wage increase

  • Amazon SVP of global corporate affairs Jay Carney penned a letter in support of a $15 federal minimum wage.
  • Top Democrats introduced a bill on Tuesday to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2025.
  • Amazon had raised starting minimum wages for full- and part-time staff to $15 in 2018.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Jay Carney, Amazon's senior vice president of global corporate affairs, penned a letter in support of a new bill introduced by top Democrats on Tuesday that would gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025. The current minimum wage, $7.25, was last raised in 2009.

"We believe $15 an hour is the minimum anyone in the US should be paid for an hour of labor. We also believe it's good for business," Carney wrote in a company blog.

Amazon raised the starting minimum wage for part- and full-time staff to $15 in 2018 following pressure from Sen. Bernie Sanders. A month after raising starting wages, Carney said applications for hourly positions "more than doubled" and employee retention improved.

"As we take steps to recover from the devastating economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, America's workers in need of a raise, small businesses that will benefit from increased spending and the country's broader economic recovery simply can't wait," the blog continued.

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Carney served as Joe Biden's communications director when he was vice president, before acting as President Barack Obama's press secretary between 2011 to 2014. Carney said President Biden "made clear" his support for increasing the minimum wage.

Amazon frequently touts high employee pay relative to other retailers. Jeff Bezos boasted in a 2020 letter to shareholders that the lowest paid Amazon employee earns more than 40 million Americans.

Some retailers, like Target and Costco, raised minimum wages to $15 an hour, but Walmart, the country's largest employer, has not. Walmart raised its minimum hourly wage to $11 from $9 in 2018.

Some reports question Amazon's promise of relatively high worker pay. BuzzFeed News reported instances where contract firms offered Amazon delivery drivers less than $15 an hour. Carney responded on Twitter to a BuzzFeed reporter, saying: "Compare our jobs to the alternatives. Find an alternative – not imaginary – that provides the pay and benefits we provide."

In areas where Amazon sets up shop, workers at other businesses suffer — industry wages tend to fall within two years of a fulfillment center's opening before gradually increasing, Bloomberg reported.

Amazon's profits surged to $6.33 billion in the third quarter, after the coronavirus pandemic boosted demand for e-commerce and web services. 

Workers have protested working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic, claiming Amazon failed to maintain safe, socially-distanced warehouses. The retail giant dropped the $2 coronavirus hourly pay raise in June 2020 and did not reinstate it as cases reached record highs in the winter.

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