After several years of increasing pressure by Walmart workers across the country, Walmart announced today that it would begin paying workers at least $10/hour by next year. According to a new fact-sheet issued to Walmart workers, the company will increase the starting wage to $9/hour by April 2015.
In a video and a letter posted on Walmart’s web site, the company’s President and CEO, Doug McMillon, accounted for Walmart’s change of course from the global leader in the race-to-the-bottom to a thoughtful corporate community member, as follows:
We’re always trying to do the right thing and build a stronger business. We frequently get it right but sometimes we don’t. When we don’t, we adjust. In recent years we’ve had tough economic environments, a rapidly growing company, and fundamental shifts in how customers are shopping. We also made a few changes aimed at productivity and efficiency that undermined the feeling of ownership some of you have for your business. When we take a step back, it’s clear to me that one of our highest priorities must be to invest more in our people this year.
And while McMillon’s I’m-wearing-my-sweater-speaking-to-you-in-a-Mr. Rodgers voice what-used-to-be-Sam-Walton’s-office-in-a-Mr.-Rogers-voice video may play well in the corporate PR world, Walmart workers who have joined together as part of the OUR Walmart campaign to demand $13-15/hour and full-time work, know that the only thing that has changed Walmart’s mind has been the fire of organizing that they helped light. In the summer of 2011, 100 OUR Walmart workers marched on the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. A little more than a year later, Walmart faced the first strike in its history when more than 70 Los Angeles Walmart workers from nine stores walked off the job.
OUR Walmart recognized Walmart’s move as a victory for the movement, at the same time recognizing there is a long way to go:
Big day for OUR Walmart! Today Walmart responded to our call for higher pay and more consistent schedules. They are committing to raise pay for 500,000 associates by raising the minimum pay to $9 per hour this year and $10 next year and and also raising the floor and ceiling for most current pay bands. This doesn’t get most of us to $15 and FT but it shows that by standing together and taking action we can make big change at Walmart. Today when we go to work let’s tell our co-workers what we have accomplished and invite them to join us in making even bigger change at Walmart.
Needless to say this is a huge victory for the fight to raise the minimum wage nationwide, but we should not forget that there is a long way to go to bring that wage up to a LIVING WAGE. And before there is too much talk about Walmart or other race-to-the-bottom corporations having a change of heart, it would be good that we hold onto Hamilton Nolan’s take on Walmart’s announcement writing in Gawker:
Doug McMillon is lying. It is true that the Walmart corporation and its executives are always trying to build a stronger business, but it is clearly not true that this faceless machine for selling enormous quantities of manufactured good is “always trying to do the right thing.” In fact, Walmart is so committed to holding down the wages of its workers—keeping them in poverty—that it consistently fights any attempts of employees to organize, even as the company’s ownershave grown to become some of the richest people in the world. Dozens and dozens of current and former Walmart employees have explicitly described to us how Walmart is a bad place to work. The Walmart corporation does not do things for its workers in order to help its workers, out of kindness. To the Walmart corporation, workers are tiny gears grinding in a very large global machine.
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.
This victory is not a time to rest. The folks at OUR Walmart have it spot on: this is a time to tell our co-workers, our neighbors, our family and friends what has been accomplished and invite them to join the movement in making even bigger change.