Walmart Gives 500,000 Workers A Raise, But It’s Still Not Enough

walmart-storefrontWalmart is making headlines today for their latest attempt to slap a P.R. Band-Aid over the gaping wound that is their employment practices. According to The Huffington Post, Walmart announced that they will be giving half a million workers a raise, increasing the baseline wage for store employees to $10 per hour. The raise will be broken into two parts, with the initial increase to $9 per hour coming in April and the second boost to $10 promised by this time next year.

Other companies, such as Gap and Ikea, have made similar announcements recently, but Walmart’s decision stands alone due to the sheer size of the company. Walmart is the largest private-sector employer in the country and currently employs 1.4 million people. Their move to raise wages is important because of the incredible influence they wield in getting congress to finally act on raising the federal minimum wage to an acceptable level.

A $10 wage would still leave many workers and their families below the poverty line, but it’s well above the $7.25 federal minimum wage that still prevails in states without a higher one.

The fact that Walmart is raising its base wage could help lawmakers in Congress in their push to raise the federal wage floor, which hasn’t been raised since 2009. Democrats have proposed hiking it to $10.10 per hour and tying it to an inflation index, but Republicans in both chambers have blocked the measure from moving forward.

Congress’ failure to act on wages has put millions of families in jeopardy and allowed blatant abuses like the ones Walmart and other big box retailers inflict upon their workers to continue. As The Huffington Post notes, many states have moved on without congress and enacted their own wage changes, making this the first time in history the majority of states have a higher minimum wage than the federal level.

Even though this move is a positive in terms of encouraging congress to address stagnant wages and the growing wage gap in this country, it doesn’t mean a lot for individual workers. A Walmart employee working full time at $7.25 per hour would bring home about $253.75 a week before taxes, while an employee making $10 per hour would bring home about $350 a week. While more money is fantastic, the amount Walmart is offering will still leave an overwhelming number of workers living below the poverty line, and that’s if they’re even allowed full-time work to begin with.

Walmart is notorious for limiting shift availability and making it incredibly difficult for their employees to find opportunities to work more hours and earn more money. Last year they began a program called Access To Open Hours to combat this issue, but only after employees spent two years protesting, submitting petitions, and staging walk-outs.

According to a report in Forbes, Walmart’s workers cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $6.2 billion in public assistance.

It found that a single Walmart Supercenter cost taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.75 million per year, or between $3,015 and $5,815 on average for each of 300 workers.

Walmart told analysts last year that the company has captured 18 percent of the SNAP market. Using that figure, we estimate that the company accounted for $13.5 billion out of $76 billion in food stamp sales in 2013.

Walmart’s abhorrent business practices aren’t just hurting the families of the people who work for them; they’re hurting all of us. I give Walmart golf claps for attempting to do better by their employees and possibly encouraging congress to pull their heads out of their asses, but in the grand scheme little has changed. While a small pay raise is a good first step and temporarily removes Walmart from some media outlets’ shit lists, it does little to remove the burden carried by the 1.4 million Walmart employees who can’t afford to live.

(Photo:  Niloo / Shutterstock)

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