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.