Walmart employs more people than any other company in the US, so at times Walmart can set the tone for retail.
Here’s what happened today: Walmart announced that the minimum wage for its Associates will be set at $9/hour this year, $10/hour next year.
Is that minimum enough for an Associate to support a family of four?: a resounding NO.
Why is Walmart making this decision now? Well, The New York Times offers an explanation in an editorial “As Walmart Gives Raises, Other Employers May Have to Go Above Minimum Wage“: good workers are in demand.
“So what has changed? The simple answer is that the world for employers is very different with a 5.7 percent unemployment rate (the January level) than it was five years ago, at 9.8 percent. Finding qualified workers is harder for employers now than it was then, and their workers are at risk of jumping ship if they don’t receive pay increases or other improvements. Apart from pay, Walmart executives said in their conference call with reporters that they were revising their employee scheduling policies so that workers could have more predictability in their work schedules and more easily get time off when they needed it, such as for a doctor’s appointment.”
Walmart’s decision doesn’t even begin to chip away at the income gap; interestingly enough, according to the Times piece, it isn’t motivated to do so. If it was, Walmart execs might have come up with a more aggressive strategy, perhaps one that involved building a collaboration with other retailers or a consortium to investigate (and implement) an across-the-industry change.