Big Companies Woo Scarce Hourly Workers With Higher Pay, Bonuses
By Sebastian Herrera and Heather Haddon
The fight is on for lower-wage workers.
Some of the biggest U.S. employers of entry-level workers are
adding tens of thousands of new positions as the economy roars back
from the coronavirus pandemic. Many are raising wages or adding
perks to entice workers away from other jobs or off the sidelines
of the labor market.
Amazon.com Inc. said Thursday that it would hire 75,000 more
workers and offer $1,000 signing bonuses in some locations, its
latest hiring spree in a year of tremendous job growth at the
e-commerce giant. McDonald's Corp. said that it wants to hire
10,000 employees at company-owned restaurants in the next three
months and that it would raise pay at those locations. Chipotle
Mexican Grill Inc., Applebee's and KFC are among other chains
seeking to hire tens of thousands of workers as they reopen dining
rooms and seek to bolster staffing there.
Many companies have struggled to find enough available workers,
though there are signs that more are entering the labor market to
take some of those open positions. The Labor Department said
Thursday that jobless claims had continued a several-week slide to
new pandemic lows.
Demand for workers is so high that wages are rising, too.
Average hourly earnings for private-sector employees rose by 21
cents to $30.17 last month, according to a recent Labor Department
report. The gain is notable because strong hiring in the lower-wage
hospitality sector would typically put downward pressure on average
earnings, economists said.
Amazon said its open roles are offering average pay of $17 an
hour, an increase over its typical starting wage of $15 an hour.
The company in April said it was raising wages for more than
500,000 hourly employees receiving pay increases of between 50
cents and $3 an hour, an investment of more than $1 billion.
"The economy is starting to open up, and there is a lot of need
for new employees for a lot of different industries," Amazon Chief
Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky said in April.
McDonald's said it would raise wages for more than 36,500 hourly
workers at company-owned stores in the U.S. by an average of 10%
over the next several months.
The fast-food chain owns a fraction of its 13,900 U.S.
restaurants, around 95% of which are operated by franchisees.
The National Owners Association, a group representing U.S.
franchisees, said in an email to its members Sunday that strong
sales should allow operators the choice to raise menu prices, to
offset higher spending on pay and benefits.
"We need to do whatever it takes to staff our restaurants and
then charge for it," the association said.
Unions and activists have for years urged companies including
Amazon and McDonald's to boost wages. A labor-backed group called
Fight for $15 said Thursday that McDonald's should commit to that
minimum wage across all of its restaurants. The median hourly wage
for a U.S. fast-food worker in mid-2020 stood at $11.47, Labor
Department data show.
McDonald's said it decided to raise pay at company stores after
looking at what other restaurants were paying and as more states
and the federal government consider mandating minimum-wage
President Biden and other Democrats want to raise the federal
minimum wage to $15 an hour from the current $7.25. Legislation to
do so has stalled in Congress amid opposition from Republicans and
some Democrats. Pressure on lower-income wages as the economic
recovery accelerates is giving many workers pay that meets or
exceeds the goal without action from policy makers. McDonald's said
it expects the average wage at the restaurants it owns to reach $15
an hour by 2024.
Chipotle said Monday that it would raise wages at its 2,800
restaurants to an average of $15 an hour by the end of next
Olive Garden owner Darden Restaurants Inc. said it paid $17
million in bonuses to workers last month and boosted wages to at
least $10 an hour for 20% of the chain's 135,000 hourly staff.
Amazon has said it is focused on improving conditions for its
workers after an Alabama unionization vote highlighted what some
employees say are difficult conditions in warehouses. Company
warehouse workers in Bessemer, Ala., voted by a wide margin against
forming a union, but the campaign was one of a number of episodes
in which Amazon employees have complained publicly about their
workplace treatment. Amazon has said it treats its workers
Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos said in February that Amazon
wants to improve relations with its workforce, and that it was
working on solutions to reduce injuries at its warehouses.
Amazon workers have continued to advocate for changes. Workers
in the Chicago area have protested recently, though the actions
didn't affect Amazon operations. The company often sees protests
around its annual Prime Day, which it has moved up to June from
July, when the shopping event is typically held. The event occurred
in October last year after the pandemic caused delays in Amazon's
--Sarah Chaney Cambon contributed to this article.
Write to Sebastian Herrera at Sebastian.Herrera@wsj.com and
Heather Haddon at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 13, 2021 14:44 ET (18:44 GMT)
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