Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos challenges rivals to raise minimum wage: 'Throw the gauntlet'

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Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos, in his annual letter to shareholders, challenged retail rivals of the e-commerce behemoth to outdo the company’s $15 minimum wage.

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“Today I challenge our top retail competitors (you know who you are!) to match our employee benefits and our $15 minimum wage,” Bezos wrote in the letter. “Do it! Better yet, go to $16 and throw the gauntlet back at us. It’s a kind of competition that will benefit everyone.”

Last year, Amazon raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour, but came under fire for phasing out bonuses and stock awards for longtime warehouse workers. Following the criticism, Amazon announced another pay boost and new cash bonuses for tenure milestones. The wage hike, Bezos said in the letter, benefitted more than 250,000 employees and 100,000 seasonal employees.

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“We strongly believe that this will benefit our business as we invest in our employees. But that is not what drove the decision,” he said. “We had always offered competitive wages. But we decided it was time to lead – to offer wages that went beyond competitive. We did it because it seemed like the right thing to do.”

Some of the company’s biggest competitors, like Target and Walmart, have also rolled out minimum wage raises for employees, but not quite to the same extent of Amazon.

At the beginning of April, Target said it would increase its hourly minimum wage to $13 from $12 starting in June. It previously said it plans to raise starting wages to $15 by the end of 2020. Walmart also announced a pay hike last year, raising its minimum wage for U.S. employees to $11 per hour.

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The challenge follows the disclosure of Bezos’ pay in 2018, a staggering $1,681,840, 58.

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