Amazon’s sudden announcement it will raise the minimum wage for all employees to $15 an hour sent a wave of excitement in the ranks of those working at the company’s fulfillment center in Fresno.
“I was shocked,” said Ashley Gonzales, 29, of Fresno. “Are you kidding?”
She has worked at the center since mid-July, shortly after it opened. She is currently making $12.75 an hour, which means she’ll be getting a 17 percent raise.
The new wage takes effect Nov. 1 and includes part-time and seasonal employees.
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Gonzales said she found out about the pay raise about 6 a.m. in a text message from her husband, who works the night shift at a manufacturing plant in Fowler. He had seen a story on his Google news feed.
She called a fellow employee and read the Amazon communication for employees about it. Her job is to put merchandise in boxes and get the boxes ready for shipping.
Before getting her job at Amazon, Gonzales, a mother of three, worked at a fast food restaurant that did not have health insurance or other benefits. By contrast, Amazon has health insurance, a 401(k) plan, and life insurance, she said.
“I’m pretty happy it, “ she said. “This is a job for life.”
Joshua Maughan, 40, of Clovis said he found out about the pay raise when “some friends woke me up via a group chat. That was pretty cool. I was stoked. Everybody is ecstatic about it.”
He’s making $12.75 an hour now.
The married father of three said he has worked at Amazon for two and a half months. His job is to operate a manual pallet jack and deliver products to fellow employees.
“I love what I do,” he said.
Fresno Mayor Lee Brand said the positive effect on the region’s economy is something to celebrate.
“This is, indeed, great news,” Brand said in a statement to The Bee. “It increases the spending and investment power for nearly 3,000 new Amazon employees and makes it easier for them to afford good housing and improve their quality of life. It also causes a ripple effect in our local economy that will build on the momentum that Fresno is already enjoying.”
The city courted Amazon and affirmed a pack of of economic incentives worth up to $30 million over 30 years to get Amazon to site a distribution warehouse in Fresno.
“We have a lot of good things happening in Fresno’s job market and stories like this should be celebrated,” Brand said.
The city has been told there are 1,200 people per shift, and the center is running two shifts, and plans to hire another shift during the holidays, which would mean 3,600 employees by December, city spokesman Mark Standriff said.
Other companies including Target and Walmart are voluntarily raising their wages but there’s a potential downside for the economy, according to Employment Policies Institute in Washington, D.C.
“Amazon got it half-right,” the Institute said in a statement. “Employers nationwide have been voluntary raising their entry-level pay scales; it’s proof that mandates aren’t necessary to raise pay at the bottom.
“But Amazon should know better than to advocate for an extreme mandate that lower-margin businesses can’t afford. In the company’s hometown of Seattle, the evidence is clear that a $15 minimum wage has caused employees to lose $125 a month on average, on account of lost work hours. It’s to this evidence, rather than Amazon’s press release, that Congress should pay attention to.”