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Amazon's million-square-foot Aurora, Colorado fulfillment center. Photo: AAron Ontiveroz/Denver Post/Getty

When President Trump threatened to go after Amazon, Jeff Bezos didn't say a word publicly. When Sen. Elizabeth Warren accused the company of antitrust violations, it stayed mum. But not long after Sen. Bernie Sanders called out Amazon for paying its workers too little, the e-commerce giant raised its salaries.

What's going on: Amazon — unlike some other companies with similar size and influence — has been largely immune to public pressure. But, in a super-tight labor market, with dozens of retailers vying for the same pool of warehouse workers, Amazon can't afford bad press that might push workers away.

Driving the news: Amazon today announced a $15 minimum wage for 350,000 employees, both full-time and seasonal. It said workers already getting $15 will also see a small increase. Currently, Amazon says it pays workers based on where they work, with minimums ranging from $10 to $14 per hour, reports the WSJ.

The big picture: There is an all-out bidding war for warehouse and other low-wage workers. Amazon's wage hike follows a commitment by Target to increase its minimum wage to $15 by 2020. Walmart has raised its minimum to $11 an hour, and Costco went to $14 an hour in June.

  • Warehouses and distribution centers will add 452,000 workers by next year, predicts CBRE, an investment and market research firm.
"They are competing for the same workers to do almost the same thing in fulfillment centers within hundreds of yards of each other. ... That gives the worker some leverage."
— Mark Muro, Brookings Institution

The backdrop: Sanders recently introduced the "Stop BEZOS Act," which would make big companies with huge numbers of workers at low wages — like Amazon and Walmart — pay the government for the federal assistance their employees receive.

  • But today, Sanders was among those praising Bezos. "I want to give credit where credit is due," he said.

Sign of the times: Amazon Books in Manhattan's Herald Square is split into two parts: the bookstore and a coffee shop operated by Amazon, but staffed by workers who are paid by a contractor. I asked workers on both sides about the wage hike.

  • Amazon employees declined to comment. But one of the baristas said, "We already get paid more."

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

U.S. strikes Iran-backed militia facilities in Syria

President Biden at the Pentagon on Feb. 10. Photo: Alex Brandon - Pool/Getty Images

The United States on Thursday carried out an airstrike against facilities in Syria linked to an Iran-backed militia group, the Pentagon announced.

The state of play: The strike, approved by President Biden, comes "in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement.

Senate parliamentarian rules $15 minimum wage cannot be included in relief package

Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

The Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday that the provision to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour cannot be included in the broader $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

Why it matters: It's now very likely that any increase in the minimum wage will need bipartisan support, as the provision cannot be passed with the simple Senate majority that Democrats are aiming to use for President Biden's rescue bill.

Dave Lawler, author of World
1 hour ago - World

Biden's big Saudi reset

Mohammed bin Salman. Photo: Ryad Kramdi/AFP via Getty

President Biden spoke with Saudi Arabia's King Salman this evening ahead of the release of a CIA report expected to implicate the king's son, and the kingdom's de facto ruler, in the murder of a U.S.-based journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

Why it matters: In one month, Biden has ended support for the Saudi war effort in Yemen, frozen a large arms deal and snubbed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) by declining to speak with him directly.