by Ben Garfinkel
In a recently released quarterly report, Wal-Mart announced a plan to raise its minimum associates’ wage to $9 per hour. The plan is set to begin in April, and will increase to $10 in 2016. This wage increase puts the retail giant ahead of the curve; Federal law has mandated since 2009 that hourly workers be paid $7.25 or more per hour of work.
While nationally this wage increase will place Wal-Mart’s minimum compensation rate above the requirement, some state and local governments have different laws requiring a higher minimum wage. Some of the highest hourly wages are: San Francisco at $10.70; Santa Fe $10.66; San Jose $10.15; and Los Angeles $9. Washington, D.C. and San Diego plan to raise the minimum wage rate to $11.50 per hour, Washington, D.C. by 2016 and San Diego by 2017.
The Wal-Mart stores in these locations must abide by local laws. Wal-Mart is the United States’ largest private employer, employing 1.3 million Americans. The quarterly report indicated that the wage increase would cost the company about $1 billion. The same report indicated that the company earned $115 billion in revenue that quarter.
Although the increase is certainly a positive, the sentiment toward it by some Wal-Mart employees is less than praiseful. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, “Sue,” a Wal-Mart cashier who works at the Robinson-area store, says that the increase isn’t enough. Sue works full time at Wal-Mart, but must also bartend on the side to make ends meet and provide for herself and her three-year-old son. She says that while the increase will definitely be a boon, that it won’t be enough for her to leave her bartending position. Sue says that she would have liked to see the increase raise the minimum-wage rate to around $12 to $15 an hour; it would take this much for her to be able to leave her side job.
Typically, a Wal-Mart Department Manager can earn between $9 and $21 an hour, according to estimates from Glassdoor, a web service where employees and former employees anonymously review companies and management. When speaking to a Wal-Mart manager on different occasions, I was directed to a 1-800 number to answer specific questions about the corporation as a whole.
A manager who works at the Greensburg-area store, Kathleen, said that she is pleased with the wage increase and that the increase would “give her employees a better opportunity to provide for their families.” Kathleen also said that she is glad that even the lowest wage in the company would be above the national minimum wage rate.
In October of 2014, a group called Our Wal-Mart protested in the streets of New York; Washington, D.C.; and Phoenix. The protest demanded that workers be paid a wage of $15 an hour at the least.
When examining the wages at Costco, a direct competitor of Wal-Mart (specifically, the Wal-Mart-owned bulk store Sam’s Club), it can be clearly seen that large businesses can afford to pay workers at least $15 an hour. According to the Harvard Business Review, Costco employees earn an average of $17 an hour, while employees at Sam’s Club earn an average of $10.16 an hour. Eighty-two percent of Costco employees receive health insurance, contrasted against the fewer than 50 percent of Wal-Mart employees who have that benefit.