Walmart announced today it was giving its lowest-wage workers a raise to at least $9 an hour by April and $10 an hour by 2016. The retailer’s action comes after Walmart workers have been increasingly vocal and active over Walmart’s low pay, benefits, working conditions and treatment. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the announcement:
is a victory for all the brave workers and activists who are standing up to the country’s largest employer and demanding more. It is powerful proof that collective action is the strongest strategy available to make life better for working families.
Christine L. Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project (NELP), also credited the workers’ mobilization for finally moving Walmart to raise wages. “The announcement is clearly the result of years of organizing by Walmart employees,” she said.
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.
Stagnant and low wages have been a huge burden on working families and a drag on the economy for years and, said Trumka, “For years Walmart has kicked and screamed that raising wages was not a feasible business model.” But, he added:
With one short announcement, Walmart has shown that raising wages is both possible and attainable and only the start of a long-term effort to create family sustaining jobs.
Holly Sklar, chief executive of the Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, told The New York Times;
It’s important that our nation’s largest private employer is finally beginning to follow many other companies in raising starting pay. But given that the buying power of the 1968 federal minimum wage is nearly $11 adjusted for inflation, Walmart should be setting higher targets than $9 in April 2015 and $10 in 2016.