Kicking ass for the working class

Doug McMillon at Walmart Shareholders’ Meeting 2012

Remember, this movement started with no help (let alone leadership) from the political establishment on the minimum wage organizing, and this certainly wasn’t driven by electoral politics. This was accomplished by the workers themselves and some good old-fashioned organizing, and those organizers who helped pulled it off should be congratulated:

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is spending $1 billion to make changes to how it pays and trains U.S. hourly workers as the embattled retailer tries to reshape the image that its stores offer dead-end jobs.

As part of its biggest investment in worker training and pay ever, WalMart told The Associated Press that within the next six months it will give raises to about 500,000 workers, or nearly 40 percent of its 1.3 million U.S. employees. Wal-Mart follows other retailers that have boosted hourly pay recently, but because it’s the nation’s largest private employer, the impact of its move will be more closely watched.

In addition to raises, Wal-Mart said it plans to make changes to how workers are scheduled and add training programs for sales staff so that employees can more easily map out their future at the company.

“We are trying to create a meritocracy where you can start somewhere and end up just as high as your hard work and your capacity will enable you to go,” CEO Doug McMillon told the AP during an interview this week at the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.

The changes, which Wal-Mart announced Thursday as it reported stronger-than-expected fourth quarter results, come at a time when there’s growing concern for the plight of the nation’s hourly workers.

Thousands of U.S. hourly workers and their supporters have staged protests across the country in the past couple of years to call attention to their financial struggles. Business groups and politicians have jumped into the fradebating a proposal by President Obama to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. And a new Associated Press-GfK poll found that most Americans support increasing the minimum wage.

At the same time, competition for retail workers is becoming increasingly stiff. As shoppers get more mobile savvy, retailers are seeking sales staff that’s more skilled at customer service. But in the improving economy, the most desirable retail workers feel more confident in hopping from job to job.

I like Gawker’s take:

Walmart is giving raises to its workers for one simple reason: it has to. The company is smart enough to see that the ongoing protest campaign against it by its own poor employees demanding a living wage will not end. It will not end, just like the similar campaign by fast food workers will not end. Not only will the cries of low-paid workers not end; they will be heard. Walmart knows that these demands must, eventually, be met. Because they are eminently reasonable. And more to the point, because America is a nation that is starting to realize in a very public way the the economic inequality that has been choking us for three decades now is unsustainable. The Walmart corporation and its well-paid executives and fabulously wealthy owners understand this simple truth: there are many, many more people who identify with Walmart workers than there are people who identify with the richest family in America.

Walmart is giving its workers raises. It is doing so because it doesn’t have a choice. This is a good example of rising public anger accomplishing something. Just a couple of dollars an hour, for now. More, soon.

7 thoughts on “Kicking ass for the working class

  1. Henry Ford, a bloodsucking Capitalist, gave his workers a substantial raise to $5 dollars a day. All the other greedy Capitalists cursed him out for making them look bad. Henry didn’t suddenly turn into the workers friend (the strikes of the 1930’s would prove that). What he realized was that he couldn’t sell his cars if workers couldn’t afford them.
    Wal-Mart sales have been dropping for the past three years. Somebody in Wal-Mart’s board room must have figured out what Ford figured out a hundred years ago. Which is that you can’t sell your imported crap to people who can’t afford to buy it.
    That should in no way be taken as a rap against those who protested the low wages at Wal-Mart. Those folks were right and brave to do what they did. We need everybody involved in the fight against the bloodsucking Capitalists.

  2. Was there any mention by Walmart about…COST OF LIVING increases?

    Or do they think they can forestall further organizing and worker actions with the eventually $2 per hour increase????

  3. Um, there’s also another reason. The economy still sucks, but it’s improved enough that there are some low-wage jobs out there. Mallwart was having problems with workers abandoning ship as fast as they could, so they pretty much had to do this. As the horriblest employer out there, they would lose people to anybody else. Some other huge employers (I think I remember hearing ATT & Verizon) have had to raise their lowest wages too unless they want to be retraining everybody every three months.

  4. “We are trying to create a meritocracy where you can start somewhere and end up just as high as your hard work and your capacity will enable you to go,” …

    According to that, quite a few entry-level employees should wind up making as much in salary and benefits and stock options as the highest-paid executives.
    I wonder how quickly that will happen.

  5. As an added bonus, according to a current Wal-Mart employee, full-time workers are going to have more free time. It turns out that Wal-Mart is cutting their employees hours as they increase their wages. So net net few employees will actually see a pay raise.
    But the company will realize greater profits.
    Bloodsucking Capitalists.

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