Monday, April 25, 2011

The Answer is a Resounding Yes

The headline reads, "Should Wal-Mart Pay Workers $12 An Hour" and what strikes me about that is the nearly-universal simplicity of the question. Yes, Wal-Mart should pay their workers more:
Walmart is plowing through its global responsibility goals, cutting down on plastic waste, improving energy efficiency in factories, and reshaping the crop diversity of entire U.S. regions. But it's doing a less-than-stellar job when it comes to doing right by its workers. According to a new report(.pdf file) from the University of California, Berkeley, Walmart could significantly raise the wages of its employees without affecting its low prices. Chronically underpaid people around the country could benefit.
I have a personal belief that this would greatly improve the economy. And I base that on common sense. If Wal-Mart were to pay its workers just a little more, that money would go back into the economy. It would, I believe, then be spent at Wal-Mart, increasing sales and profits. It wouldn't automatically replace the money paid out, but Wal-Mart would see a benefit in increased sales, happier employees (not all, but some, for sure) and that would, in turn, lift some people out of poverty (or get them closer to being lifted out).

When you work for hourly wages, you don't have many other options besides sticking it out in a place. You work through your initial probationary period and then you work to get better schedules, better hours, and better pay by making it to the various milestones along the way. These milestones are designed to give employees incentives. If you stay for a year, you'll make x amount more than what you're making more. Many times, you know that, after three or five years in a position, you can run into a cap; meaning, once you've made it to the top of the pay scale, that's it. No more raises.

If Wal-Mart is serious about being a good corporate citizen, making the wages that it pays more progressive and a little bit better would go a long ways towards improving the lives of the people who work there.

Advocates of business "freedom" sometimes applaud when workers take a pay cut to help save a company (these pay cuts hurt our economy because those workers have less discretionary income for things like going to Wal-Mart and all that). Wal-Mart doesn't need saving right now. But, if it took this step towards raising wages, it would build up goodwill for a later date.
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