By Catherine Herbert
Starting on Saturday, Feb. 20, Walmart will be introducing a large scale wage increase for over 1.2 million Walmart employees across the nation, according to an announcement from the company made on Wednesday, Jan. 20.
According to the statement on Walmart’s website, workers hired prior to Friday, Jan. 1, will be paid $10 or more an hour. CBS News reported that Walmart workers have been earning $9 an hour, almost two dollars over the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Workers already earning more than $10 will receive an annual pay increase at the end of February, regardless of how long they’ve worked for Walmart. By February, the wage for full -time workers will have risen to $13.38 per hour, with the wage for part-time workers rising to $10.58 per hour, on average.
This initiative is the follow-up to the two-part plan Walmart created several months ago. Last April, the company implemented a wage increase of $9 per hour for 500,000 Walmart employees, according to CNN.
While these wage reforms would seem to be a big win for Walmart workers, there is backlash against Walmart’s actions, suggesting that their two-part plan is nothing more than a publicity stunt to mold their public image into being one of fair and agreeable nature, CNN reported.
Jessica Levin, a representative for United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), spoke against Walmart’s actions and discussed how its employees should still be advocated for.
“It’s easier to find a unicorn than a Walmart worker who has gotten a meaningful raise or hasn’t had their hours cut,” Levin said, according to CNN.
UFCW, as well as the organization Making a Change at Walmart, are major advocates for raising workers’ wages to a living wage of $15 an hour, as well as voicing critique on the massive corporation, according to Walmart’s website. The organizations strive to open a discourse on the nature of the company and what exactly a living wage entails.
A major irony lying in the midst of this wage increase is that just a mere five days after the announcement was made, Walmart shared that it will be closing 269 stores across the world. Of these 269 stores set to close, 154 of them are located in the U.S., according to CNN. These store shutdowns will place 16,000 workers out of work.
In addition to these thousands of workers who will be out of a job, these shutdowns also place small towns in a position of having to travel greater distances for all the necessities that the local Walmart had previously provided, creating what Walmart Today calls “food deserts,” which are areas “in a rural or urban setting where access to affordable and nutritious food is limited.” At least three of these “food deserts” will be created in rural and poor towns in Alabama and Kansas, CBS News reported.