- Wages grew at the 10th percentile because of minimum-wage increases in 2014 in states where 47.2 percent of U.S. workers reside. This illustrates that public policies can be an important tool for raising wages.
America's largest private employer just took a modest step to improve the lives of a lot of workers. Following years of concerted protest by frontline workers and their communities, Walmart's CEO Doug McMillon announced that Walmart will raise wages to $9 an hour in April and $10 an hour by February next year, as well as creating more stable and predictable schedules.
This is a huge win—and it's about time. Our research, which has pointed the way forward for retailers like Walmart, shows that Walmart's low wages and unpredictable schedules disproportionately hurt women and people of color, and are holding our economy back. We've also shown how a raise and predictable hours would lift Walmart workers out of poverty, help Walmart's bottom line, and boost economic activity overall.
This raise would never have happened without the courageous action of thousands of Walmart workers. It is an important blow to the outdated, low-wage business model that Walmart pioneered.
Despite the good news, Walmart can easily do better. Last year Walmart spent more than $6.6 billion repurchasing shares of its own stock, bumping up earnings per share and consolidating ownership among the Walton family heirs. If that money were spent on low-wage workers instead, Walmart could raise pay by over $5 an hour.
As Walmart employee Emily Wells put it after hearing today's decision:
"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."
A full-time associate making $9 an hour still makes a little less than $19,000 a year. Next year's wage of $10 an hour is worth less than the minimum wage was 50 years ago. It's not just history that shows that a higher wage at Walmart is possible—employers like IKEA and Gap have already recently announced similar raises, and high-road employers like Costco and Trader Joe's have demonstrated that Walmart can raise pay higher and still be a leader in the retail market.
Today, let's celebrate this important blow to the low-wage business model while we keep the momentum going by pushing employers to treat their employees with the pay and respect they deserve. I hope you'll join us.--
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