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That includes employees at Whole Foods, which Amazon acquired for US$13.7 million in June 2017.

"We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead", Bezos, the world's richest man, said in a statement.

Bezos also thanked Sanders for his words of support, noting that Amazon is "excited about this, and also [hopes] others will join in".

Iesha Townsend, who works as a McDonald's cashier in Chicago, said she hopes other companies follow suit.

Amazon also said it was ending some restricted stock unit grants as it raised wages for hourly warehouse and customer service employees. "The current rate of $7.25 was set almost a decade ago", said Jay Carney, senior vice president of global corporate affairs for the company.

"We intend to advocate for a minimum wage increase that will have a profound impact on the lives of tens of millions of people and families across this country", Jay Carney, Amazon's head of global corporate affairs, said in the statement.

Sanders congratulated Bezos in a statement Tuesday for "doing exactly the right thing" and urged other companies to do the same. Only one state - Washington - had a minimum wage above $8 an hour.

"You've got a company that can't attract and keep labour because their wage rates are at the bottom of the pay scale, generally speaking", said Marc Wulfraat, president of logistics consultancy MWPVL International, which closely tracks Amazon's fulfillment operation.

In a 2015 article in The New York Times, employees described a "soulless, dystopian" work environment.

Amazon said it plans to hire more than 100,000 holiday workers, who will pack and ship boxes in its more than 100 warehouses around the country. Target, which announced plans last year to raise hourly wages in steps to $15 by 2020 and now pays $12 an hour, said the number of job applicants rose 60 percent in the days after it increased its minimum by $2 to $11 per hour last year.

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Amazon has revolutionized how people shop online and is the world's dominant internet retailer. "If you are profiting from changes in the economy, we need to make sure that everyone in this country has a stake in that economy". The hourly minimum wage in the London area will rise to 10.50 pounds (US$13.60), and 9.50 pounds in the rest of the United Kingdom, affecting some 37,000 current and seasonal employees, according to a separate statement. A rise to US$15 is an increase of 15.4 per cent.

"This will lead to a general increase in minimal wages in all industries", he said.

Amazon on Tuesday announced plans to raise the company's minimum wage in the United States to $15.

Retailing giant Amazon is boosting its minimum wage to $15 an hour for all USA workers, giving its lowest-paid employees in the Chicago area a $2.50-an-hour pay increase.

In the following decade, the minimum wage went up in all states, in many cases because of an increase in the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour that took effect in 2009. Analysts said the raise would cost it $US1 billion or less annually but would be offset by a recent $US20 increase in the cost of its Prime memberships.

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said Tuesday that while Amazon's wage hike is a politically savvy move, it's also a change made out of economic necessity.

The minimum wage hike at Amazon comes as it is searching for a home for its second United States headquarters, which will employ as many as 50,000 people.

In August, Sanders blasted Amazon, saying its workers were forced to rely on government programs for subsistence.

Amazon, which became the second company after Apple to cross $US1 trillion in market value last month, now pays around $US11 per hour.