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Amazon workers are shared as companies raise minimum wages | Business

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. • Almost no workers complained this week at the meeting with all hands after lunch at this Amazon follow-up center outside Nashville when a plant manager announced that the company's minimum wage climbed up to $ 15 an hour.

Instead of celebrating, many workers put their hands up to ask questions and express deep frustration, according to five employees at the facility. They asked why people who had worked in the company's warehouse for years would pay in the same way as new employees and temporary vacation help, according to the workers.

"People really seemed bumped out because now [seasonal] workers work 1

5 dollars an hour," said Chip Litchfield, who is glad that his salary will jump from $ 11.50 per hour to a program called Amazon CamperForce, which gives people living in RVs to work in some fulfillment centers during the holiday season. "We are just a bunch of old people they bring a few months a year."

Amazon's decision to raise its minimum wage received widespread praise as a victory for workers and a model for other major American companies, including drawing plaudits from people as varied as Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Who had previously contravened the company's treatment of workers, and Larry Kudlow, President Donald Trump's highest financial adviser.

But within 24 hours the question of how generous the move really started. Amazon also announced that it would reduce bonuses and trading cards and some veteran workers say they are devalued and fear that they can end up with less money than they get now.

It's impossible to know how great Amazon's actions are – the company said it would bring a cost but not say how big it would be. But the split reaction among some of the 250,000 full-time and 100,000 seasonal workers underlines one of the biggest tensions in Amazons huge growth. It is likely that no company has hired more people in recent years than Amazon, which has opened the fulfillment centers at outstanding speed.

But even when it aims to maintain a satisfied workforce and ward off critics who say that the company does not treat employees, Amazon must minimize costs and maximize the effectiveness of their inventory so that it can continue to grow its formidable position in online trading and deliver products in as little as an hour.

"Raising its minimum wage to $ 15 was the first easy step," says Paul Sonn, Head of State for the National Employment Rights Project. "Amazon is broken: They do not want to be known as a bad employer, but they are an aggressive costume cutter."

Today, Amazon is the second largest employer in America, and most of its jobs are creations of e-commerce era. Rather than engaging in the type of extreme automation that many fears will cause the destruction of jobs, the company has relied on a new kind of work – pickers and packers, as they are called on large warehouses to track goods by speed, controlled by a handheld computer and locked for delivery.

The work is something between retail and the traditional work of blåkragar. And the salary reflects it.

Among all Amazon employees, the median wage is $ 28,446 a year ($ 13.68 per hour), a figure that the company revealed this year for the first time due to a new regulatory requirement. It's a worldwide figure that includes full-time and part-time workers. Glassdoor, an employment website, says average pay at US follow-up centers has been $ 13 per hour, according to almost 900 people who submitted their data to the site.

Amazon's salary is significantly higher than the $ 10.28 per hour the typical retail worker does, but it's less than the $ 15.53 that a median employee is paid, according to Labor Department data.

Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, took the decision to increase Amazon's minimum wage to $ 15 as a brave move to "encourage our competitors and other major employers" to join him. But economists point out that Amazon does it at a time when almost every company complains that it can not recruit enough workers. Unemployment rate has been the lowest since 1969.

Higher payroll should help Amazon attract workers to their doors, but it's not clear how veteran workers will go and what's going to happen.

"For me, it seems like a publicity poem on the part of Bezos. The big title sounds kinda until you realize we're losing big benefits," said a full-time employee at Amazon's Murfreesboro facility who spoke on terms of anonymity for fear of punishment.

Amazon spokesman Ashley Robinson said in an email that all workers will see a "cash pay" with employees who currently earn $ 14.01 or more against a dollar rise. She could not guarantee that every worker would be better but she said that "our intention is really for employees to see an increase in compensation."

Longtime employees say they should get a $ 3 raise so their salary is closer to $ 18 an hour especially since Amazon eliminates bonuses, which often contributed 8 percent per month to their income.

Jobs in Amazon's stock can be horrific, physical and mental. Almost every one of the 18 past and present a Counselors interviewed for this article said they took advice after work or suck or rub their feet at night and many said they refer to workers who have been there for a few months as "Amazombies" because they develop a look of monotonous work.

"Our roles are more comparable to retail in the United States," said Robinson. "We believe the Amason job for fulfillment is central, which provides a great place to learn skills to start and further develop a career."

The company has faced increased criticism of how it handles its staff – from reports that some employees need food stamps to move on to articles about stock relationships. The company has generally pushed back, saying that some criticisms are incorrect and excessive while promising to take action to improve.

"As a company, Amazon constantly creates new jobs and one of the reasons we can attract people to join us is that our primary priority is to ensure a positive and safe work environment," says Robinson.

The main question, said Most workers who spoke for this article are that Amazon sets quotas for how many things they have to pick, sort or pack each day and it can be difficult to meet that requirement and still find time to hurry over the storage floor to the restroom or the bathroom under one 15-minute break.

Amazon defends its quota system saying it is a standard practice and there are support programs for people who do not meet the expected level.

Most workers said Amazon is sincere about what the job means and that the company's salaries and benefits are good for people without college degrees. Some workers have the same attitude to minimum wage.

"It's a profit Loved some people, but for others like me, who do not care much about the stocks or get bonuses, $ 15 and hour make a big difference, says a California worker whose salary will soon rise from $ 13.15 to $ 15, and who spoke on terms of anonymity because he would not be in trouble to talk to the media.

In its statement announced the increase, Amazon said it was found that workers prefer predictable cash payments rather than stock grants or bonuses. Amazon employees had been entitled to share grants.

Amazon has increasingly shaped the US labor market since it opened its first fulfillment center in 1997. However, when employment in Amazon and other e-commerce sites increased in the 21st century and in the early 2010's there was a noticeable decrease in average stock workers pay at national level, according to the duties analyzed by accounting and consulting firm Grant Thornton.

The average stock workers' salary decreased from $ 20.85 one hour in 2000 to below $ 16 2013 (both figures are adjusted for inflation and shown in current dollars). The trend has only recently begun to reverse, with an average stock payment of $ 17.50 this year.

"Warehousing and distribution were once higher skilled jobs than they are today, so pay has gone down even though the job requires a lot of effort," said Diane Swonk, senior economist at Grant Thornton. "E-commerce companies do not care about their sales rates. They believe that all workers are interchangeable, just like Henry Ford did."

Some of the questions about Amazone's working practices are rooted in the company's efforts to be very effective with its employees.

The company has rely on temporary employees and staffing companies, says Marc Wulfraat, CEO of MWPVL International, a logistics consulting company that tracks what Amazon is doing. The use of seasonal workers has long been a fact in life, especially in the busy Christmas season, but Amazon has considered it on a larger scale, he said.

"They are trying to keep costs down, so they are doing that," Wulfraat says, and notes that Amazon's storage capacity is likely to exceed Walmarts for the first time this year. (Amazon says that more than half of the seasonal workers in employment centers are employed directly. )

A typical industrial or manufacturing warehouse uses a worker per 1 500 to 3 000 square meters of space, while an e-commerce operation needs an employee per 700 to 1,000 square meters, according to commercial real estate company JLL.

Workers say that goods in Amazon's layers are not sorted methodically, for example office supplies in one area and shoes in another. Instead, objects are immediately placed on the shelf when they reach the warehouse. Pickers rely on handheld monitors to tell where to find something, says de.

Here in Murfreesboro, home to one of Amason's 110 North American follow-up centers, you have ntegrity Staffing Solutions announced temporary jobs in the middle of $ 12.25 per hour,

The salary is higher than $ 8 start-up to the cashier at Dollar General just down the street, but it's less than $ 16 an hour advertised at Interstate Warehousing, a cooling system across the road.

In addition to traditional templates, Amazon created a seasonally-run program called CamperForce in 2009. These workers, often over the age of 55, live full-time in RVs while working from September or October to December 23 at some fulfillment centers.

Many CamperForce participants say it's a good deal for them because they can earn enough in a few months to not work for much of the year.

Amazon also benefits from getting cheap migrant workers willing to move wherever they are needed.

CamperForce participants have no benefits, and their salary has been lower than full-time workers here, but the company lists the camping costs, including electricity.

"CamperForce takes advantage of them, and it benefits us," says Litchfield, a 59-year-old from Vermont, who makes the program for the second time with his girlfriend, Pen Brink. They believe that with some overtime they can earn close to $ 14,000 for their 14-week stint.

"I just hope they have us back next year," he said.

Washington Post's Abha Bhattarai contributed to this report.

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