Walmart may finally bow to pressure to deal with the minimum wage issues that have long plagued the company. In what could be interpreted as a symbolic gesture, CEO Doug McMillon declared the retailer will soon have no employees making minimum wage.
As it stands, about 6,000 of Walmart's 1.3 million employees are making minimum wage, but the retailer said its average wage for full-time hourly workers is $12.92.
"We only have a few thousand associates in the U.S. …that currently make a minimum wage and it is our intention over time that we will be in a situation where we don't pay minimum wage at all," McMillon said following an investor conference.
McMillon hopes the effort will be part of a broader attempt to invest in the retailer's associate base, using promotions and bonus programs to provide better opportunities for employees. Walmart's future includes fewer new stores and increased investment in technology to further its digital footprint.
Meanwhile, workers group OUR Walmart is organizing rallies in New York and Washington, D.C. on Thursday, calling for the retailer to go a step further by raising its wage to $15 an hour and make more positions full-time.
The NRF is also trying to make its voice heard with a new report titled "Wages in the Retail Industry: Getting the Facts Straight," which shows that retail wages are much more competitive than government data reflects.
"The retail industry finally has definitive data to bolster the argument we've been making all along–that wages in our industry rival those of other industries when properly compared," NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said of the results.
The study argues that the retail industry employs more young and seasonal workers who desire flexibility, and that can throw off wage data. Even with such part-time employees, the average retail worker earns $30,984 each year, the study said. According to OUR Walmart, the majority of the retail chain's work force makes less than $25,000, well below that average.
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