by Max Brantley
There are approximately 1.3 millions Americans in the company’s stores. That means that the raises will effect less than half of the employees. I would expect that most of the raises will go to full-time employees. This, of course, represents a drop in the bucket and as Catherine Ruetschlin and Amy Traub at Demos noted last year, Walmart could raise the minimum wage of all employees to $14.89 simply by not spending $7.6 billion on stock re-purchases which directly benefit the Waltons themselves.
All that means that once again, shareholder value trumps the very real lives of workers. Where else do you think that $1.61 per share came from?
“Today, courageous Walmart workers who for years have been fighting for higher pay and better treatment from the nation’s largest employer have achieved something unprecedented: a commitment from Walmart to raise wages company-wide to a minimum of $10 an hour in 2016.
“The announcement is clearly the result of years of organizing by Walmart employees, who have united under the banner of OUR Walmart and engaged in strikes, protests, consumer education, and investor outreach to draw attention to the company’s deplorable working conditions. Few could have envisioned a group of workers forcing Walmart, ruthlessly committed to cost-cutting, to unilaterally raise wages. But, standing together, Walmart employees have done just that, providing inspiration to worker movements everywhere.
“Yet the changes in company policy announced by Walmart are inadequate for the hundreds of thousands of employees who struggle to support themselves and their families. When compared to the $16 billion in profit that the company rakes in annually, Walmart’s promise of $10 an hour – which even for a full-time worker is not enough to keep a family of four out of poverty – is meager. Walmart has not committed to giving employees the full-time hours they want and need, nor made any commitment to respect employees who are fighting for better working conditions.
“Walmart workers have helped make the company one of the largest and most profitable corporations on Earth, building untold wealth for the Walton family. For this, they are seeking a $15 an hour wage, an opportunity for full-time work, and dignity. Surely this is a small price to pay to help its associates truly ‘live better.’”