The roar of the audience was palpable on Tuesday, October 2nd as a room full of Amazon employees found out the company is raising the minimum wage for U.S. employees to $15 an hour. This change is going to effect over 350,000 people. Let that number sink in for a minute.
Before you start commending Amazon for this change, it’s important to keep in mind what transpired in order for the trillion dollar company to take the plunge. While conversations about raising the minimum wage in the United States came into effect long before Bernie Sanders, the political candidate used Amazon as the scapegoat for this mission during his 2016 campaign. He called out the giant corporation at a variety of speeches, asking how a company worth (at the time) billions could be so stingy when it comes to the people that help it function day-to-day. Since then, Amazon has been under a microscope of criticism for a variety of issues, including minimum wage and the replacement of jobs with artificial intelligence.
If nothing else, this particular case should be a testament to the power of public persuasion. With the current administration working to undermine the progress we’ve made (just this week Trump decided to deny visas to the same-sex partners of diplomats), it’s easy to feel powerless. It seems like every week there’s a new reason to feel, in the long run, that your voice doesn’t matter. But this, this seemingly small step, is actually monumental. It proves just how powerful persuasion and standing up for your beliefs is given the current global climate.
This isn’t the first time a company has been forced to change its despicable ways in the wake of cultural criticism. During the 1990’s, Nike came under fire after labor activists shed light on their horrendous overseas working conditions. At first, the company defended themselves by stating that they couldn’t be responsible for companies they didn’t own. But activists didn’t back down, and in 1996 Life Magazine published a story called Six Cents an Hour, accompanied by an image of a young Pakistani boy sewing a Nike soccer ball. Phil Knight, the CEO at the time, was then forced to make sweeping changes about where Nike was outsourcing their goods. Without public outrage, Time would have never published that piece, and the massive company would have continued to produce their goods under such conditions.
It doesn’t stop there. From Lego, to Kleenex, to General Mills, many of the largest U.S. corporations have been forced to change their working ways in the wake of public scrutiny and unwavering persuasion. You have a voice, and with this new digital age, you have the platform to turn the volume up on your beliefs. Don’t let any political trends deter you from standing up for what you believe. If you don’t do it, who else will?