Amazon’s $15 minimum wage raise to impact Virginia workers

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Print this page Michael O'Connor | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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Amazon’s public policy team plans to lobby for an increase in the federal minimum wage.

News this week that Amazon plans to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour will likely impact thousands of workers in Virginia.

Amazon currently is advertising hourly jobs in Virginia starting at $11.75 to $12.50 an hour. Amazon’s new minimum wage goes into effect in November and is more than twice the state and federal minimum wage of $7.25.

“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,” Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, said in a press release. “We’re excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us.”

Most of Amazon’s hourly employees in Virginia are employed in its fulfillment centers, a company spokeswoman says. Amazon has 4,500 full-time employees in its Virginia fulfillment centers. Its Virginia fulfillment centers are in Chester, Clear Brook (Frederick County), Petersburg, Springfield and Sterling. Amazon also has a sorting center in Ashland.

Virginia was considered the worst state for workers in a 2018 ranking done by Oxfam. Another ranking by CNBC put Virginia as the fourth best state to do business.

A spokeswoman for the Virginia AFL-CIO, a labor group, says the news from Amazon would be a boon for workers. She said Virginia has a high number of hourly paid workers earning at or below the federal minimum wage who struggle to afford housing expenses.

“When it comes to Amazon’s announcement of increasing minimum wage to $15, the Virginia AFL-CIO is excited about it,” the Virginia AFL-CIO spokeswoman says. “We also know that for workers to have a voice on the job, guaranteed benefits, including health care, retirement, and true protections on the job, workers need a union contract.”

Virginia is considered a “right to work” state, meaning it’s illegal to have contracts between unions and employers that require all employees in a workplace to pay union dues. In 2016, Virginia voters decided against an effort to amend the state constitution to reflect its “right to work” laws.

The Virginia Chamber of Commerce says it isn’t surprising that with Virginia’s 3 percent unemployment rate companies are competing for workers by offering higher wages.

“The Virginia Chamber supports a free-market approach to establishing wages,” the business group said in a statement. “We will also continue to advocate for policies that will help Virginians gain access to job training and skills that will allow them to earn higher wages.”

Gov. Ralph Northam welcomed Amazon’s news in a tweet, saying, “Exciting news and a great example for companies across the country.” Northam supported a $15 an hour minimum wage on the campaign trail in 2017.

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