On Monday, Amazon increased the base pay cap for some of its employees. Tech and corporate workers will see their base salaries rise from $160,000 to $350,000. In an internal memo, the company announced it hopes to offer more competitive compensation compared to other big tech companies. With Amazon being one of the world’s largest employers, we wonder what effect it could have on wages throughout the tech industry as well as for the rest of its own employees. We’ll also catch you up on the weekend’s news, including a White House update on Russia. Plus, a Make Me Smile that’s just our type!
Here’s everything we talked about on the show today:
- “Amazon more than doubles max base pay to $350k for corporate and tech workers, citing labor market” from GeekWire
- “Russia at 70 percent of Ukraine military buildup, US officials say” from Politico
- “How New York City’s Hospitals Withstood the Omicron Surge” from The New York Times
- “U.S. coronavirus deaths surpass 900,000, driven in part by Omicron surge” from Reuters
- “How Leisure Time Became Work” from The Atlantic
- “‘You’ve got mail’ | Tom Hanks responds to typewritten fan letters from Heights High School” from KHOU
Make Me Smart February 7, 2022 transcript
Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.
Marielle Segarra: There it is. I’m Marielle Segarra. Welcome back to Make Me Smart, where we make today make sense. And we try to help Meghan McCarty Carino figure out her vacation plans.
Meghan McCarty Carino: I need to take a vacation people. I’m Meghan McCarty Carino and I’m in for Kai Ryssdal. Today it’s a What Did We Miss Monday where we share one big news story of the day and then catch you up on all the stories you might have missed over the weekend.
Marielle Segarra: Yeah, so let’s do it. I think the big story today was Amazon. What do you think?
Meghan McCarty Carino: I mean, I think it’s a good story to talk about. It’s a good story for me to talk about. I follow you know, the labor market. I’m the workplace culture reporter. So yeah, let’s do Amazon. So today, Amazon announced it is raising its base salary cap. So the cap on how much the salaries can be for tech workers and Amazon. They’re raising that cap to $350,000. Significantly more than what it was before. Which honestly, I was shocked to find out.
Marielle Segarra: I though it was 160 before?
Meghan McCarty Carino: It was 160 before. I was kind of surprised about that, that that’s the salary cap cap for for Amazon previous to now.
Marielle Segarra: Is that the base salary cap? So basically, that’s like, yeah, the starting range. There was a cap on the starting range, and it was at 160k.
Meghan McCarty Carino: Yeah. And then I guess the thing with Amazon was they really paid out in stock packages. So they really had like a sweet, you know, stock packages thing that they sweetened things with. But last year, their stock kind of underperformed supposedly didn’t grow as fast as the rest of the S&P 500. So they needed to play some catch up to our current labor market, which is quite frenzied.
Marielle Segarra: And that’s the that’s the point here, right? Because this is all about the labor market being tight. And Amazon saying we need to raise salaries to attract people. I mean, we should point out their warehouse workers are not making this kind of money. This is for I guess, executives or but their warehouse workers make I believe it’s about $18 an hour on average.
Meghan McCarty Carino: Yeah, they just raised that in September, they raised the average warehouse worker wage, it’s, I think the minimum is still $15 an hour for warehouse workers, but the average is up to $18 an hour right now.
Marielle Segarra: Which is competitive for that position.
Meghan McCarty Carino: Definitely.
Marielle Segarra: You just you definitely see the disparity there. But it exists at all at all companies, right?
Meghan McCarty Carino: Yeah. And Amazon is the second biggest private employer in the country. So it is kind of a bellwether for, I guess, for both of those types of work.
Marielle Segarra: Yeah. And it can, what Amazon decides to do, can drive up wages in other…
Meghan McCarty Carino: Absolutely.
Marielle Segarra: Other companies as well.
Meghan McCarty Carino: Yeah, cuz clearly, they have so much market poll they have. I mean, I don’t know exactly kind of the numbers. I know, it’s 1.6 million employees, I think. But the kind of the breakdown of what percentage of those are sort of higher paid tech workers, and what percentage are warehouse workers? I would imagine it’s majority, you know, warehouse workers, since they have such huge staffs. And they have those distribution centers all over the country. But yeah, I mean, it’s a huge employer, no matter how you slice it, and it’s going to have a huge effect on the labor market.
Marielle Segarra: Yeah, for sure. Well, let’s look at what we compiled over this weekend. I think I’ll go first, the big story. I think the big news item from this weekend, was that the Biden administration shared that Russia has assembled about 70% of the troops that it would need on the border with Ukraine to launch a full invasion of the country. And that if it did launch an invasion, that that could result in up to 50,000 civilian casualties. That’s the estimate and tens of thousands of soldiers would be killed and potentially could create, you know, millions of refugees who would then flee likely to Poland and Russia. Russian leaders say that it is not its intention to invade Ukraine. I guess we have to say that. But we’ve talked on this show before about some of the economic factors here, for one thing that our European allies, especially Germany, get a lot of their natural gas from Russia. And so that plays a role in the moves that they decide to make in response. And then, yeah, and then also that, you know, which economic sanctions the United States is considering, and the effect that those might have on Russia. And, you know, like, the the ripple effects that those could have globally, as well. So that’s just an update. And then also, there was a story in The New York Times about how New York City’s hospitals fare during the Omicron surge, which I take particular interest in as a resident of New York City. And as someone with a family member who worked on the frontlines early during COVID in Brooklyn. I think what stuck out about this is that so yes, we know that Omicron is generally milder, but it is also more contagious. And so it sends a lot of people to the hospital, there was a surge. And what hospital workers though, have figured out in the past two years, they’ve learned a lot. They know now to avoid intubating patients whenever they can, because a lot of people who end up on ventilators never come off of them. They also figured out that they can use high dose steroids to control inflammation. I believe that early in the pandemic, I mean, the virus was just so new. And there was this, this idea that, Oh, well, steroids can suppress your immune system to take patients off their steroid medications. But actually, steroids can help. And there were all these things that doctors and healthcare workers had to figure out on the fly. And I remember hearing from them, especially from folks in New York, because this was one of the early places that got hit, just how crushing it was that so many of their patients came in, and no matter what they did, the patients died. And it was just like one death after another after another. And at least we can say, now, two years in, that the virus isn’t a mystery anymore, and healthcare workers are figuring out or have figured out how to treat it.
Meghan McCarty Carino: Yeah, I saw some figures about kind of comparing the death rate in New York City during the initial spring wave to the Omicron wave. And it was like, I think it was like 100 and some odd deaths during Omicron. An 800 deaths a day during the initial wave. It’s just like such a huge difference, even though the numbers of cases and I think even the numbers of admissions were comparable.
Marielle Segarra: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s partly about I mean, that’s largely about vaccination, but then also about an end it being milder, and but also that we know how to treat it now.
Meghan McCarty Carino: Well, for my missed news, I wanted to kind of take a moment and just acknowledge that on Friday, we surpassed 900,000 deaths from COVID. Um, you know, I’m not like a pandemic pessimist right now, like I just did want to, you know, acknowledge that, that just kind of the, the weight of that, and also the fact that, you know, kind of how quickly we got to that 900,000 from 800,000. It was seven weeks, it was mid December that we hit 800,000. And we have hit 900,000 faster than we hit the previous 100,000. So I think it was 11 weeks, from 700 to 800,000. And it was seven weeks from 800 to 900,000. And yeah, and it just gets to that, that same idea that Omicron is thankfully milder than Delta. And I’m sure it’s, you know, some of sum of what has been counted in the Omicron wave was probably also Delta because Delta was also surging during the same time, you know, it kind of at the beginning of winter was also surging before it got crowded out by Omicron. But yeah, just I mean, the fact that when something is spreading in those numbers, that when you increase the denominator by that much, that the numerator also becomes very big. And so, you know, we had, we’ve had an average of 2600 people dying a day now in the US, and and our death rate is much higher than other countries still, even during Omicron. It’s been 63% higher than kind of comparable peer wealthy nations in Europe and Japan.
Marielle Segarra: Is it because of vaccination?
Meghan McCarty Carino: That definitely plays a really big role, for sure. But honestly, I was a bit surprised, because I thought that, you know, we had so much previous infection in the United States when Omicron hit, you know, way more than Europe, and that we had a lot of hybrid immunity, we kind of between having the, you know, a sort of moderately good level of vaccination, and also high prior infection that we would be in the place that we are now with, you know, with having, having had that number of deaths so quickly during the winter Omicron surge. I was surprised, and yeah, so I think kind of underlying vaccination rate, and also where they are distributed, both in terms of the ages, you know, I think we have a higher rate of unvaccinated seniors in this country, then than some of those comparable countries. And also a lower rate of boosters in that age range, where it’s, it’s been shown to be the most important, you know, when over 65, you get really like a big boost in terms of protection from hospitalization and severe outcomes. Obviously, our health system is very different than many of those other countries have, you know, national health systems where people have maybe, you know, more affordable access to health care, more regular access to health care, that’s been an issue throughout the pandemic, and just sort of underlying health in our country. You know, we have a younger average lifespan in this country than many of our peer countries because of some of the underlying health issues that they’re all tied together. Income inequality, racism, all the stuff. We’ve been talking about this whole pandemic, but it’s still showing up in, in our numbers.
Marielle Segarra: Yeah, I guess when I see that number, I’m just reminded, getting back to, I guess what I was saying before, it’s that each one of those people, maybe it’s obvious, but 900,000 people. 900,000, you know, sisters, and brothers and parents, and, you know, friends, and I think it’s worth taking a moment to just acknowledge that.
Meghan McCarty Carino: Yeah, absolutely. Okay. So, on a slightly more frivolous note, I wanted to talk about a story from the Atlantic, it’s actually from kind of late last year, but kind of going back into the long reads for some fun, it was about how Americans, you know, in kind of typical American fashion, are turning their hobbies into work, and kind of how the pandemic has really made this kind of more of a thing. And so they profile some folks. You know, I think the, the first guy they profile, he’s really into “Saturday Night Live,” and he during the pandemic, decides he’s gonna start watching “Saturday Night Live,” obsessively cataloguing, all of the times, you know, like how long it takes to get to the, through the cold open, how many seconds until they say this, and keeping all of these stats, like, it’s like, you know, baseball stats, or something, how many times, you know, Pete Davidson appeared in season 47, or whatever, you know, like how many seconds it took to get to this and just keeping all of these crazy statistics, and sharing them online. And apparently, there are other people, there’s a whole community of people that want to know this information. And then another couple who were really into “The Bachelor,”and they would watch “The Bachelor” on at like, one and a half times speed or double speed, just watch through the really fast and do you know, like, episode recaps and just like putting out content about about the episodes and turned it into a whole thing, podcast to get everything. And I think things like YouTube, and podcasts and blogs have really, you know, they’ve kind of given people the opportunity to turn their hobbies into something productive.
Marielle Segarra: Why do we have to do that. I mean, that I think about this all the time.
Meghan McCarty Carino: I don’t know. Please make it stop.
Marielle Segarra: Like productivity is really the ultimate American virtue. It really is. Yeah, and we just, I mean, I even I find myself doing this too. I’m watching a show that I really like and I have to also be crafting. You know, I’m making a tiny reindeer out of out of scraps from my Christmas tree. Literally, I did make a few of those while I was watching a show because it wasn’t enough to just be watching the show.
Meghan McCarty Carino: No no, not enough, yeah, not enough to just actually rest which is good for the brain and good for the body. No, I remember like at the beginning of, of the pandemic, how there was, it was like a competition like all of the hobbies you could learn, and you know, like different bread recipes. Like everyone – it was like this crazy thing. Everyone was telling the thing about William Shakespeare writing all the plays during the Black Plague. And I was like, No, I was just like sitting depressed in my pajamas, like crying.
Marielle Segarra: Yeah, just leave me alone. Let me rest.
Meghan McCarty Carino: Yeah, I’m very good at doing nothing. Yeah, I remember like when I when I first started dating my husband, and he was like, kind of a freelancer. And every time we would go on vacation, he wanted to do some sort of like project some sort of journalism project wherever we were going. And finally I think like the second trip, I was just like, “No, we gotta stop this. No more doing journalism on vacation. I will not accept it.”
Marielle Segarra: Alright, well, I think on that note, let’s have a smile huh?
Meghan McCarty Carino: All right.
Marielle Segarra: Okay, so it’s Monday and that is the day you send us your make me smiles you can email those to us. We are at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meghan McCarty Carino: And this week, our make me smile comes from listener Allison in Austin, Texas. She sent us this story about a class of high schoolers at Houston’s Heights High School, who sent Tom Hanks typewritten fan letters.And he wrote back!
Marielle Segarra: Nice.
Meghan McCarty Carino: So nice.
Marielle Segarra: He is like a huge fan of typewriters, apparently.
Meghan McCarty Carino: Apparently, so he owns over 100 typewriters did not know that. But he was very excited to connect with some fellow typewriter enthusiast. I mean, what like, what a nice guy. He was like engineered in a lab to just be the nicest. I never want to find out anything bad about Tom Hanks ever.
Marielle Segarra: I was thinking that too. Yeah. It would be a real bummer.
Meghan McCarty Carino: Such a bummer.
Marielle Segarra: All right, well, we’ll have that on the show page. And that is it for us today. Join us tomorrow, Kai and Kim really will be doing a deeper dive into the NFL lawsuit filed by former head coach of the Miami Dolphins Brian Flores.
Meghan McCarty Carino: And we always want to hear from you. If something we said on the show made you smart please tell us about it. You can email us a note or send us a voice memo to email@example.com Or you can always call us and leave us a voice message at 508-UB-SMART.
Marielle Segarra: Make Me Smart is produced by Marissa Cabrera with help from Marque Green. Today’s program was engineered by Juan Carlos Torrado.
Meghan McCarty Carino: And our senior producer is Bridget Bodnar. And the Director of On Demand is Donna Tam.
Marielle Segarra: Kai’s not here so I feel like I have to say Donna, Donna, Donna
Meghan McCarty Carino: I need to plan a vacation.
Marielle Segarra: Yes, it’s time.
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