Wal-Mart’s typical employee is paid less than $9 an hour

The retail giant's boasts about being a jobs creator ring hollow if it can't pay its workers a livable wage

Topics: Walmart, Minimum wage, Labor, march to washington, Workers' Rights, RobertReich.org, ,

Wal-Mart's typical employee is paid less than $9 an hour (Credit: AP)
This originally appeared on Robert Reich's blog.

Yesterday a Walmart spokesman criticized the petition I’ve been circulating that asks Walmart (and McDonalds) to pay their employees at least $15 an hour.

Walmart’s spokesman told the Huffington Post that my petition fails to mention that Walmart is a major job creator and that it promotes some of its employees.

The spokesman is correct. In fact, Walmart is America’s biggest employer. And I’d be shocked if some of its employees weren’t promoted.

But the brute fact is Walmart’s typical employee is still paid less than $9 an hour.

To offer lousy jobs on such an extraordinary scale is not something to brag about. Indeed, the point of the petition — as well as the national movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour — is to recognize that most people who work for big-box retailers like Walmart, as well as those who work in the fast-food industry, are adults. They are responsible for bringing home a significant share of their family’s income. A decent society requires they be paid enough to lift them and their families out of poverty.

When Martin Luther King, Jr., led the March to Washington for Jobs and Justice, fifty years ago this week, one of the objectives of that March was to raise the minimum wage to $2 an hour. $2 an hour in 1963, adjusted for inflation, comes to over $15 an hour in today’s dollars. Walmart doesn’t come close to the American dream.

Robert Reich, one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written 13 books, including his latest best-seller, “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future;” “The Work of Nations,” which has been translated into 22 languages; and his newest, an e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” His syndicated columns, television appearances, and public radio commentaries reach millions of people each week. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, and Chairman of the citizen’s group Common Cause. His new movie "Inequality for All" is in Theaters. His widely-read blog can be found at www.robertreich.org.

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