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Amazon is doling out raises of as little as 25 cents an hour in what employees call ‘damage control’

An fulfillment center. (Giulio Napolitano/Bloomberg News), fighting back against the image of poor working conditions at its warehouses, has been calling workers around the country into “all-hands” meetings in the past week where they’ve been given raises — of 25 to 55 cents an hour, according to employees.

Full-time workers across the country reported raises of 25 cents in Orlando; 35 cents in Coppell, Tex.; and 55 cents in Hebron, Ky. That brings their pay to between $11.50 and $15.05 an hour, after raises ranging from 2 to 4 percent. An employee in Robbinsville, N.J., said she had been notified of staff meetings scheduled for this week.

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One part-time worker, in San Bernardino, Calif., says the 40-cent bump to $13.15 an hour is the first raise he has received since he began working at the company four years ago. Like the other Amazon workers in this report, he spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

“It wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough at all,” the worker said. “The HR manager in the room was like, ‘Aren’t you excited? Come on, clap!' We started a slow clap, with no emotions on our faces. A 3 percent raise in four years — it feels like damage control."

Amazon has also been showing animated videos promoting Amazon’s benefits packages at the meetings, according to workers.

The staff meetings and hourly raises come as Amazon faces continued scrutiny over the treatment and pay of its workers, particularly in its more than 100 U.S. fulfillment centers with 200,000 employees. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) this month introduced a bill calling on Amazon to pay a living wage to its employees, following reports that thousands of Amazon workers rely on federal assistance for food, housing and health care. The median Amazon worker was paid $28,446 last year, according to company filings.

A spokeswoman for Amazon said the company evaluates employee pay each year to make sure wages are competitive.

“Wage increases are standard practice for Amazon,” Ashley Robinson said in an email. “Sometimes the increases are on a rotational basis or determined by local demand so we can continue to attract local talent and retain existing employees.”

In an email after the story published, Robinson added: “We announce wage increases every September leading into the holiday shopping season and it is in no way a response to external factors outside of evaluating local demand so we can continue to attract local talent and retain existing employees. The majority of full-time fulfillment center employees receive annual wage increases, which are planned months in advance, and are intended to complement the standard tenure-based pay increases, performance-based bonuses, and the comprehensive benefits package all hourly employees receive.”

In regards to the San Bernadino worker, Robinson said: “This part-time associate’s experience is not demonstrative of the majority of employee experiences. Ninety percent of our hourly fulfillment workforce are full-time employees.”

Amazon said full-time workers in its U.S. fulfillment centers make an average hourly wage of over $15 an hour, which includes stock and incentive bonuses.

The tech giant has grown rapidly in recent years to become the nation’s second-largest private employer, and earlier this month was valued at $1 trillion. Its founder, Jeffrey P. Bezos, is now the world’s wealthiest man with a net worth of about $160 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. (Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)

Retailers around the country are offering higher pay and better benefits to attract seasonal workers in a tight labor market. Target, which plans to hire 120,000 temporary workers this holiday season is paying $12 an hour and offering a chance at $500 gift cards. Ulta is giving new hires half-price haircuts, while Williams-Sonoma is promising employee discounts of 40 percent. Amazon, which last year hired 120,000 seasonal workers, has yet to announce its holiday plans for this year.

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In Orlando, an employee said about 150 workers were called into a meeting at the beginning of their shift last week. “The general message was that, with benefits, we’re being paid $15 an hour even though we’re only getting $11.25,” he said. (By the time the meeting was over, all of the employees had gotten a pay increase to $11.50 an hour. Full-time warehouse workers also receive benefits such as health insurance and restricted stock units.) “More money is more money, but a lot of us still don’t make enough money to not live paycheck to paycheck.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to make clear that the worker in San Bernadino, Calif., was a part-time employee.

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