For years labor unions have been lobbying lawmakers in Washington D.C. and all around the country to raise the minimum wage. In particular, labor unions have made Walmart enemy number one, accusing the company of unfair pay practices and has repeatedly tried to unionize workers.
Today, Walmart announced that by 2016 the minimum wage paid to workers in its stores will be increased to $10. In other words, the company has voluntarily raised wages, not because the government or labor unions forced them to, but because they think it's the best thing for business.
"Beginning in April, Walmart U.S. will increase its starting rate to $9 an hour or higher. By February 2016, all current associates will make $10 an hour or higher. Additionally, Walmart is piloting an onboarding and training program that will create clear career paths for associates so they know what is expected of them in order to move from entry level positions to jobs with more responsibility and pay $15 an hour or more," a statement released by Walmart Thursday says. "Walmart’s new associate initiatives were announced in conjunction with the company’s fourth-quarter and fiscal year-end 2015 earnings results. Walmart reported fourth quarter underlying earnings per share of $1.61. The company’s fourth quarter U.S. comp sales increased 1.5 percent, while consolidated revenue for the full fiscal year reached $485.7 billion."
Research Director at the Employment Policies Institute Michael Saltsman is applauding the voluntary increase, but is warning against using Walmart's move as a reason to mandate a minimum wage hike for others. He's also pointing out the devastating effect government mandated minimum wage hikes have on small business.
"Walmart’s decision to increase its store minimum wage to $10 an hour exemplifies how wages rise in a free economy: by choice, not by government mandate. Just because a $10 minimum wage is the right choice for Walmart, however, does not mean it should be mandated for all other businesses, regardless of industry or size," The rash of recent small business closures in San Francisco as a consequence of the city’s recently-passed 36 percent minimum wage hike highlights the folly of raising wages by fiat."
Not surprisingly, pro-labor union groups still aren't satisfied.
“The company is addressing the very issues that we have been raising about the low pay and erratic scheduling, and acknowledging how many of us are being paid less than $10 an hour, and many workers like me, are not getting the hours we need," Organization United for Respect at Walmart Leader Emily Wells said in a statement. "Especially without a guarantee of getting regular hours, this announcement still falls short of what American workers need to support our families. With $16 billion in profits and $150 billion in wealth for the owners, Walmart can afford to provide the good jobs that Americans need – and that means $15 an hour, full-time, consistent hours and respect for our hard work.”
I'll leave you with this:
Meet Claudine McKenzi, a woman who has been working at Walmart for 17 years. McKenzi started her work at the company as a part-time sales clerk trying to provide a good living for her son, she was pregnant at the time she was hired. Now, McKenzi is a store manager, has another child, a bachelors degree and is working on her master's degree, all thanks to the opportunities Walmart has provided her as a reward for her hard work.
In a video recently released by the National Retail Federation McKenzi details her journey and expresses her gratitude to the company for its support of not just her work, but of her family and personal education goals.