Walmart announced today that some half a million of its workers will be getting gradual pay raises that will increase the minimum wage of most of its employees to $9 per hour by April, and a minimum of $10 per hour by next February 1, CNN reports.
Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.
Walmart employs some 1.2 million workers at its locations throughout the U.S., as well as at its sister franchise, Sam’s Club. Currently, only some 6,000 of those employees are making the federal minimum wage. With the scheduled increases, the company says, the average Walmart worker will be making about $13 per hour.
Walmart has become a sort of focal point for the battle over wages in America, particularly for the low-wage workers in the retail industry. It’s also been the scene of protests – some organized from within its own ranks, others put together by organized labor.
Emily Wells, a leader of the union-backed group, OUR Walmart, which has organized protests among Walmart employees over low wages and poor working conditions, praised the decision to raise the company’s minimum wage. However, in the same breath, she also criticized the new minimum wage for not being high enough.
“We are so proud that by standing together we won raises for 500,000 Walmart workers, whose families desperately need better pay and regular hours from the company. With $16 billion in profits, Walmart can afford to provide the good jobs that Americans need — and that means $15 an hour, full-time, consistent hours and respect for our hard work.”
The move comes amid a national discussion on the national minimum wage. Democrats and President Obama have been pushing for a national minimum wage of $10.10 per hour, a move that Republicans have opposed. Nevertheless, several other states, and some cities, such as Seattle, have raised the minimum wage in their jurisdictions.
Deutsche Bank analyst Paul Trussell tells CNBC that Walmart’s minimum wage increase makes sense from a business standpoint.
“Frankly part of Wal-Mart’s problem has been concerns around inventories being out of stock, been about bad customer service, long lines at the checkout counters. There’s been a lot of disgruntled workers, and frankly this does sound like the new CEO both of the U.S. Wal-Mart team and Doug McMillon at the helm taking a step to perhaps correct those past evils.”
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[Image courtesy of: Getty Images/J.D. Pooley]