Walmart, notorious for paying workers very little, will soon up their wages. By next February, Walmart will pay all employees at least $10 an hour, setting an example for large U.S. companies and the national minimum wage debate. As America's largest private-sector employer, 500,000 people are expected to benefit from the pay raises.
Walmart announced today that it will raise the pay for its lowest-level employees in all U.S. stores to $9 per hour in April and again to $10 per hour by next February. Full-time and part-time workers at both Walmart and its sister store Sam's Club will soon be making $1.75 more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The store is following in the footsteps of other major retailers who increased their base pay in the last year to $10 an hour or more, including Ikea, Gap, and Whole Foods.
Walmart's CEO, Doug McMillon, said in his quarterly earning release that the company is investing $1 billion in the pay raises this year. He says:
These changes will give our U.S. associates the opportunity to earn higher pay and advance in their careers. We're pursuing a comprehensive approach that is sustainable over the long term.
The huge Arkansas-based company committing to pay workers higher wages is a big deal; it offers hope for the nationwide minimum wage debate. While many companies still pay workers the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour introduced in 2009, it's becoming more difficult for employers to find suitable employees to work for little pay, with the national unemployment rate down to 5.7 percent this month. Walmart's increase could very well push other companies to do the same in order to attract workers.
Besides encouraging pay raises among other retailers, Walmart's decision could also have larger implications for the nation's minimum wage. Democrats in Congress are trying to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and the giant company doing it on their own could give the bill the nudge forward it needs. If Walmart, known for its low wages, pays $10 an hour, the rest of the country should too.
Higher wages isn't the only change Walmart employees can expect in the coming year. McMillon also noted in the earnings report that employees will be given more control over their schedules, hopefully leading to more stable work schedules and less difficulties requesting time off.
Walmart is finally making a concerted effort to improve working and living conditions for its employees and it's about time. Even if it is just for good publicity, their employees, and maybe the nation, will reap the benefits.
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