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Amazon increasing minimum pay to $15 for US workers

More than 4,000 Amazon employees in Nevada can expect a larger check next month.

Amazon announced Tuesday that it would raise it’s minimum wage to $15 an hour for its U.S. employees. The move could force other big companies to raise their pay. The online retail giant also said it will push Congress to increase the federal minimum wage, now at $7.25.

Amazon has more than 4,500 employees in Nevada spread across fulfillment centers, delivery stations, corporate offices and Prime Now facilities, according to Lauren Lynch, an operations communication employee for Amazon.

The news impacts full-time fulfillment associates, but not corporate employees.

“All of Amazon’s hourly operations and customer service employees will see an increase, including those who are already making $15,” Lynch said via email.

Current pay for warehouse workers at Amazon is at least $12.50 an hour in Las Vegas, $12.25 an hour in Omaha, Nebraska, $13 in Baltimore, and $16.50 in New York, according to recent job postings. The wage increase takes effect next month.

Amazon, whose value topped an awesome $1 trillion in September, has been under political and economic pressure to pay its employees more.

“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO.

But Amazon may also be offering raises out of necessity: With the economy booming and unemployment near rock bottom, employers are having difficulty finding help. Amazon, with about 100 warehouses around the country, will soon need to hire more than 100,000 workers to pack and ship boxes during the holiday season.

Amazon said more than 350,000 workers will see a pay increase, including full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal positions. Employees at Whole Foods, the upscale grocery chain Amazon owns, will get the same raise. Workers in Britain will also get a raise.

The announcement was enough to soothe one of Amazon’s fiercest critics: Sen. Bernie Sanders. The senator, who frequently uses Twitter to point out the disparity between Amazon’s hourly wages and Bezos’ vast fortune, congratulated Bezos for “doing exactly the right thing” and urged other companies to follow Amazon’s example.

Gerald Storch of the retail consulting firm Storch Advisors, said Amazon’s pay raise will have repercussions beyond retailers and will put pressure on any company that operates a distribution center.

“This will lead to a general increase in minimal wages in all industries,” he said.

At the same time, Storch said, the wage increase will widen the gap between the healthy retailers, such as Amazon, Walmart and Target, and the struggling ones, which won’t be able to afford to compete on salary.

“The weaker retailers have been cutting costs and squeezing every penny,” Storch said. “They are in a very tough place.”

Amazon said it doesn’t expect to raise prices for its products to pay for the wage increases.

Review-Journal staff writer Bailey Schulz contributed to this report.

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