Well, it finally happened. By the time you read this, more than 1.2 million Walmart employees will have received a raise as the company boosts its minimum wage from $9 to $10 per hour. It may not sound like much, but that’s one – maybe even two – extra tanks of gas per week. Or groceries. Or cash for the light bill.
Every full-time employee will see their salary go up an average of 3 percent. Part-timers will see an average increase of twice that amount. But is it enough?
But is it enough? In recent years, Walmart has been taking a PR pounding, accused of exploiting employees by paying them less than subsistence wages and forcing them to depend on government welfare to make ends meet. Whether or not that accusation is a fair one, it landed hard and stuck firm.
As revenue began falling across the board and Walmart announced it would be closing more than 250 stores worldwide. The company needed a PR win. Enter “Making Change at Walmart” a union-backed initiative demanding a $15 per hour minimum wage. That was definitely not the solution Walmart wanted.
But they had to concede something, the avalanche of negative PR was getting too strong. So, Walmart announced a few changes. First, it would increase wages. In addition, the company would change procedures so employees would learn their weekly schedule sooner, allowing for greater flexibility in their free time.
While, privately, some employees expressed appreciation for the move, which would make a difference in both their wallet and their calendar, “Making Change” scoffed, calling the changes little more than a “publicity stunt.”
Meanwhile, the back and forth has become a political football for presidential candidates such as Bernie Sanders, who routinely blasts Walmart from the campaign stump.
Walmart has, for the most part, refused to respond to those attacks. The raises are as much economic as they are political. With unemployment falling, competition is decreasing, so people don’t always have to settle for Whatever They Can Get. When there’s a choice, you need to give consumers and potential employees a reason to pick you. Something Walmart is still trying to figure out.