At the same time Walmart officials announced an increase in starting pay and bonuses for their employees, they were taking actions that will likely end up placing thousands of those employees on the unemployment line.
Since that announcement, which was tied to the Trump tax cuts, Walmart announced plans to close 63 Sam’s Club stores across the United States, a move that is expected to put thousands of employees out of work and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Saturday, the company is laying off 1,000 employees from its corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.
The company’s long range plans signal thousands more may be put out of work on a permanent basis.
Recode reports a Walmart company initiative, Project Kepler, is designed to create physical stores that will operate without cashiers and checkers. The stores will be promoted as making it easier for customers, but Walmart stores across the country have already installed more and more self-service lines that have enabled Walmart to trim the number of employees it needs.
Even the portion of the Walmart news that has been positive for the company has its critics.
A column on the CNN website by Jonathan Tasini, author of The Essential Bernie Sanders And His Vision for America, noted that while credit for the increase in minimum wage for Walmart employees has been given to the recently passed tax cut legislation, other factors may have contributed just as much or more to Walmart’s decision.
One of Walmart’s chief competitors, Target, recently announced it was raising its starting pay to $11 an hour and Walmart has also been a victim of the low unemployment rates in the United States over the past several months, Tasini said.
The dwindling workforce available has forced WalMart to increase its salaries in order to attract new employees.
Another decision that brought positive publicity to Walmart, the awarding of bonuses to employees, while certainly welcomed, is not quite the act of generosity it has been portrayed to be, according to Tasini.
As the company noted, the bonus was a one-time event and while the $1,000 figure was touted in Walmart news releases and in articles based on those news releases, only a small number of employees will receive $1,000 bonuses.
The bonuses will be awarded based on employees’ longevity and with the high amount of turnover at Walmart stores across the country, few of the company’s 1.5 million employees will be taking home that much money.
Tasini referred to the bonuses as “an almost cost-free PR stunt.”
Some of those employees who receive bonuses may soon find them accompanied by less take-home pay.
The Democrat-Gazette article indicated Walmart is eliminating co-manager positions at its stores, but making those who currently hold those positions eligible for lower-paying director positions.