By Glenn Fleishman
September 24, 2018

Ecommerce giant Amazon is known for keeping its prices low, a tactic that dominoes to wage increases for its employees. The company recently handed out hourly raises that ranged from 25 cents to 55 cents an hour to its warehouse workers, according to the Washington Post, which spoke to workers across the country.

The raises, announced in warehouse all-hands meetings, were what some employees called the first in four years and one described as “damage control.” Wages now run between $11.50 and $15.05 an hour depending on the warehouse and part of the country, the Post reported.

An Amazon spokesperson told Fortune said that the company evaluates wages every year, and attempts to set compensation at 30% higher than the average retail employee in the area. The spokesperson said raises come every few years or more often, and said that it was unaware of a full-time associate who would have gone four years without a bump.

The company estimates that with cash, stock, and incentive bonuses for those employed directly, the average worker receives at least $15 an hour before overtime. That’s before factoring in health insurance, which covers medical, dental, and vision, and free skills education for in-demand jobs that 16,000 workers now participate in, the spokesperson said.

Amazon has about 200,000 workers across over 100 fulfillment centers in America, and regularly reports on rising employment numbers and demands for recruiting new workers. An unknown percentage of warehouse workers are hired and paid through third-party contracting firms, rather than being employed by Amazon.

Amazon has faced both increased competition for warehouse workers in some parts of the country, which has forced wages higher even at entry-level and manual-labor jobs, while also receiving increased criticism for its levels of pay. A spokesperson said the company has had to work to make jobs more enticing, especially for its seasonal workforce.

But those wages may still not be enough for some thousands of Amazon’s workers nationwide. Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill earlier this month that would require large employers to reimburse the federal government for assistance received, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly “food stamps”), public housing, and other benefits. Before recent wage increases, Walmart’s employees were estimated in one 2014 report to receive over $6 billion in mostly federal assistance.

A report from Policy Matters Ohio in January noted Amazon ranked 19th among companies in the state by whose workers received SNAP. The Intercept found that in five states that responded to its requests, including Ohio and Washington State, Amazon was in the top 20 for companies whose employees received aid. In Washington State, the company ranks 11th among firms for workers relying on publicly funded healthcare. Walmart, McDonald’s, and other fast-food and bricks-and-mortar retail chains ranked higher on that list.

While Walmart and other retailers have relatively low pay and also high numbers of workers receiving formal and informal assistance for food and housing, Amazon largely gets singled out because of its high value and the amount of wealth it’s created for executives and shareholders. The company recently topped a trillion dollars in stock market value and its CEO, Jeff Bezos, has become the richest person in the world by far with $100 billion in personal wealth. Bezos and his wife recently funded a $2 billion charitable organization that will issue grants for fully paid preschool and to homelessness programs with proven track records.

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