By Elisabeth Buchwald
Walmart (NYS:WMT) has joined a growing list of retailers boosting employees’ wages to $15 an hour, but unlike rivals such as Target (NYS:TGT) , Amazon (NAS:AMZN) and Costco (NAS:COST) , all of which now offer base pay of $15 an hour for all employees, the nation’s largest private employer will keep its starting wages at $11 an hour.
The pay raise at Walmart means that some 730,000 hourly workers will receive at least $15 an hour once the change goes into effect, Doug McMillon, Walmart’s CEO said this month . That amounts to half of the company’s hourly employee workforce,. but that means the same number of people will not receive the $15 an hour wage immediately.
“I’ve been working at Walmart for 11 years and only make $11.85, and most of us cashiers along with hundreds of thousands of others are once again left out of the raises Walmart is giving,” said Mendy Hughes, a Walmart cashier, in a statement released after Walmart announced the pay raise. Hughes is a leader with United for Respect, which describes itself as a national nonprofit that is not a labor union. The group says it successfully campaigned for Walmart to raise its starting wage to $11 an hour in 2018.
“Being a cashier in the COVID-19 pandemic is among the most dangerous jobs there is,” she added. “Why is it so hard for the richest family in America to just do what they should have done years ago and raise base pay for all Walmart associates to $15/hour?”
The 730,000 Walmart hourly workers who will continue to make less than $15 an hour are hardly alone.
At chains including Home Depot (NYS:HD) , Dollar Tree (NAS:DLTR) , Chipotle (NYS:CMG) , Burger King (NYS:QSR) , Kroger (NYS:KR) , McDonald’s (NYS:MCD) , and Chick-fil-A, cashiers all earn less than $12 an hour, according to Glassdoor, a site that collects anonymous salary information from current and former employees.
“At Chipotle, we pay our hourly workers above federal minimums and in some jurisdictions employees are already paid $15 an hour,” said Laurie Schalow, chief corporate affairs officer at Chipotle.
Among these chains, cashiers at Burger King and Dollar Tree earn the lowest, with average hourly wages of $9.
McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A and Burger King have many franchise locations across the country where the franchise owners set employees’ wages, rather than the companies themselves.
Dollar Tree, Burger King and Kroger did not respond to MarketWatch’s request for a comment.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that nearly 400,000 hourly workers in the U.S. earned exactly the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour in 2019. Another 1.2 million workers earned below the minimum wage in that year, not taking into account tips, commissions and overtime pay, the BLS reported.
President Joe Biden and Democratic lawmakers are pushing to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and eliminate the tipped minimum wage by June 2025.
As a result, some 17 million workers would see their wages boosted, according to a report published earlier this month by the Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan federal agency.
The downside, however, is that 1.4 million workers could become unemployed as a result, according to the CBO’s average estimate. Some 900,000 Americans would no longer be living below poverty levels if a $15 an hour minimum wage were enacted, the CBO estimated.
Biden contested the CBO’s report during a Tuesday night townhall broadcasted by CNN.
“There is equally as much, if not more, evidence to dictate that it would grow the economy and, long run and medium run, benefit small businesses as well as large businesses, and it would not have such a dilatory effect,” he said.
“But that’s a debatable issue.”