Analysis finds company’s pay lags well behind other warehouse employers, insufficient for workers to approach even average earnings in the counties where they work
Warehouse workers in counties with Amazon fulfillment centers paid 26 percent less than the average for all workers in those counties
NATIONWIDE — A new report released Tuesday by the National Employment Law Project (NELP) finds Amazon’s warehouse wages fall short of other warehouse employers, and Amazon workers’ pay does not even come close to average earnings in the counties where they work.
By examining the latest U.S. Census data on county-level earnings, A Good Living: Amazon Can and Must Make a Middle-Income Livelihood Possible for the People Who Work in Its Warehouses finds that warehouse workers in counties where Amazon operates earn 26 percent less than the average monthly earnings for all workers in those counties.
Among the key findings, the report provides data showing that Amazon pays less than other warehouse employers. Because Amazon can employ thousands of workers in its facilities, Amazon employees’ earnings can factor heavily into average earnings data for warehouse workers in those counties and can provide insight into Amazon pay rates. On average, the report finds that warehouse workers in Amazon counties make 18 percent less, or roughly $822 less a month, than warehouse workers located in comparable counties where Amazon does not operate. This suggests that Amazon’s low pay is bringing down the averages in the counties where it operates.
Prior to Amazon establishing fulfillment centers in the counties examined in the report, warehouse workers in those counties received much closer to middle-income earnings. Since Amazon’s arrival in these counties, the data show a massive drop in pay for warehouse workers, who now make 26 percent less than the average income.
“Amazon is at a crossroads. It has gotten away with such low pay for incredibly grueling work by taking advantage of people’s economic vulnerability and the lack of job opportunities in many places around the country. But with the vast resources at its disposal, Amazon could instead offer U.S. workers a real lifeline out of insecurity and having to live from hand to mouth,” said Irene Tung, a senior researcher and policy analyst at NELP. “Unfortunately, Amazon is unlikely to prioritize fair pay unless it is pushed to do so, which is why workers’ efforts to organize unions at Amazon are so important to building a good-jobs economy and advancing racial equity in the U.S.”
Black and Latinx workers, whom Amazon disproportionately relies on, bear the greatest impact of Amazon’s low relative pay in the warehouse sector. Amazon reports that 32 percent of its frontline workers are Black, and 27 percent are Hispanic. Notably, Black women represent the largest share of its frontline workers—roughly one out of six. These statistics suggest that Amazon’s pay policies may be reinforcing and perpetuating labor market inequities across the U.S.
The report comes amid the recent announcement that Amazon will increase minimum starting pay for warehouse workers to $17 an hour. While a step in the right direction, a $17 wage does not meet the cost of living in much of the country. In fact, when taking inflation into account, the “raise” to $17 is worth less in real terms than Amazon’s prior raise to a $16 starting pay in 2022.
“The one dollar raise to starting pay that Amazon just announced is not even a raise when taking inflation into account—today, $17 is worth less in real terms than Amazon’s prior raise to $16 in 2022. The purchasing power of $16 in 2022 was the equivalent of $17.28 in September 2023,” said Yannett Lathrop, a senior researcher and policy analyst at NELP. “Amazon can and should raise pay by at least 25 percent, which would bring workers much closer to a middle-income standard of earnings.”
Amazon is known for representing itself as a model employer paying high wages, despite workers’ repeated demands that the multi-billion dollar company provide living wages for all employees. The report includes powerful testimonials from Amazon warehouse workers across the country who are struggling to make ends meet off of Amazon’s current pay, highlighting the real-world impact the company’s subpar wages have on workers and their communities.
“Amazon takes up a bigger part of my life than anything else, yet every day is a struggle to make ends meet for my family. My husband had to stop working after a heart attack, and the $18 an hour Amazon pays me is not enough to cover our bills,” said Wendy Taylor, an Amazon warehouse worker in St. Peters, Missouri where workers at STL 8 have been organizing for higher pay and better working conditions. “My husband and I wait in line for hours at the food pantry every Monday, while Amazon’s chief executives make millions of dollars off of our labor and are shielded from what we go through every day to survive. That’s why I’m fighting for a union and joining my coworkers in demanding a raise at Amazon.”
In the report, NELP provides recommendations on how Amazon can live up to its promise of high-quality employment and be a leader in fostering economic opportunity. The recommendations include raising pay for all warehouse workers by at least 25 percent, supporting workers’ right to organize without interference or retaliation, adopting paid time off policies, providing stable hours and schedules, and addressing health and safety concerns. NELP also calls on Amazon to operate transparently by releasing detailed pay and racial equity data, and outlines steps that federal, state, and local policymakers can take to support Amazon workers.
The report was released in partnership with groups around the country, including ALIGN, Athena Coalition, the Awood Center, Make the Road New Jersey, Missouri Workers Center, Philadelphia Jobs with Justice, the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union, Warehouse Workers for Justice, Warehouse Workers Resource Center, and United for Respect.