Protests Get Results: Walmart Announces It Will Give Workers a Raise

Shawn Gakhal February 19, 2015

Recent low-wage worker strikes appear to be having an impact on the country's largest corporation. (UFCW / Flickr)

Low-wage work­ers’ wide­spread protests in recent years seem to be pay­ing off. 

Wal­mart is set to raise the start­ing wage for over 500,000 work­ers to $9 an hour com­ing this spring. The present fed­er­al min­i­mum wage is $7.25, and the com­pa­ny says that it will raise the fig­ure to $10 in Feb­ru­ary 2016.

Wal­mart CEO Doug McMil­lon said that there were oth­er changes in store for the com­pa­ny this year. We’re also strength­en­ing our depart­ment man­ag­er roles and will raise the start­ing wage for some of these posi­tions to at least $13 an hour this sum­mer and at least $15 an hour ear­ly next year. There will be no bet­ter place in retail to learn, grow, and build a career than Wal­mart,” McMil­lon said in a let­ter post­ed Feb­ru­ary 19 on Walmart’s blog.

The company’s deci­sion to raise wages for its work­ers comes on the heels of the Fight for 15 protests over the past few years, as well as the OUR Wal­mart strikes and protests by Wal­mart work­ers and their supporters.

The move to raise the min­i­mum wage will affect all of the company’s full-time and part-time employ­ees. Sam’s Club, which is owned by Wal­mart, will see its employ­ees ben­e­fit from the raise, too. The $10 wage is con­tin­gent upon receiv­ing and com­plet­ing a skills-based train­ing pro­gram for at least six months.

The move to raise the min­i­mum wage for its employ­ees coin­cides with the company’s recent strong fourth-quar­ter earn­ings. Wal­mart made $1.61 per share, and its rev­enue hov­ered around $131.6 bil­lion, accord­ing to Busi­ness Insid­er. The retail­er also earned $485.7 bil­lion in rev­enue, with a net income of $16.4 bil­lion, accord­ing to Forbes.

Wal­mart U.S. deliv­ered bet­ter than expect­ed comp sales. Sam’s Club had its best per­for­mance of the year, and Wal­mart Inter­na­tion­al had sol­id sales and prof­itabil­i­ty. Like many oth­er glob­al com­pa­nies, we faced sig­nif­i­cant head­winds from cur­ren­cy exchange rate fluc­tu­a­tions, so I’m pleased that we deliv­ered fis­cal year rev­enue of $486 bil­lion,” McMil­lion said in a statement.

While strong prof­its pro­vide a con­ve­nient rea­son for the com­pa­ny to give the raise, the momen­tum has clear­ly been ris­ing in work­ers’ favor in recent years. Protests were staged at about 1,600 Wal­mart loca­tions in 49 U.S. states on Black Fri­day. The move toward a high­er min­i­mum wage seems to be inch­ing ever clos­er to real­i­ty, so Wal­mart might just try­ing to stay ahead of the pub­lic rela­tions curve by giv­ing the bump now.

Shawn Gakhal is a spring 2015 edi­to­r­i­al intern at In These Times. He is also the edi­tor-in-chief of the Roo­sevelt Torch at Roo­sevelt Uni­ver­si­ty in Chicago.
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