In Southern California’s Inland Empire, where some 20,000 people toil in Amazon’s vast network of warehouses, the company’s announcement of an increase in their entry-level wage to $15 an hour was seen as a boost for the local economy.
“It’s huge,” said John Husing, chief economist of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership. “Nearly half of our region’s workforce is marginally educated, with just a high school degree or less. At Amazon, they’ve started at about $13 an hour. The extra two dollars will have an impressive impact on their quality of life.”
Local businesses from grocery stores to barbershops will benefit, he predicted, and Amazon’s move will put pressure on other companies in the region where entry-level warehouse jobs last year paid an average of $12.21 an hour.
But worker advocates, including union officials behind the successful drive to raise state and local minimum wage levels, cautioned that the raise is a mere step in the right direction.
“Amazon has gotten a lot of bad press over its labor practices,” said Sheheryar Kaoosji, co-executive director of the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, an Ontario nonprofit. “This is a good start, and a response to a tight labor market as much as anything.”