Amazon pledged to continue paying all hourly employees — some 10,000 people — who serve its Seattle and Bellevue buildings, which are largely empty since the company directed all employees to work from home if they can amid the coronavirus outbreak.
An Amazon spokesperson said in a statement Friday it would also subsidize a month of rent “for the local small businesses that operate inside our owned buildings to help support them during this period.”
Microsoft took a similar step Thursday and called on other major employers in the region to follow suit.
While the tech giants employ tens of thousands of people directly in high-paying jobs — many of which can be done remotely — they also rely on thousands of contract workers to maintain facilities, serve food, drive shuttles, set up audio-visual equipment, staff front desks and provide security.
The coronavirus outbreak threatens to have a more severe economic and health impact on hourly workers in service industries who cannot do their jobs from home and can’t afford to miss work. Pledges to pay these workers, who are often employed by third-party staffing firms, could help to mitigate those impacts.
Microsoft President Brad Smith, in a blog post Thursday, acknowledged that not all companies can afford to do so. He said on KUOW on Friday morning that the decision to pay hourly employees during the work-from-home period would not impact the company’s business, since this was money the company was planning to spend anyway as part of normal operations.
The Amazon spokesperson did not have data on how many of the company’s employees in the region have been working from home since the company began recommending they do so through March, if possible, on Wednesday.