Walmart recently announced that it would be raising wages for it employees to $9.00 an hour in April, with an increase to $10.00 an hour in 2016.
Although this is an improvement over current wages, it will continue to leave Walmart workers in poverty. Even at $9 an hour, a full-time employee working 40 hours a week and 50 weeks a year will receive only $18,000 before taxes. The Department of Health and Human Services has established that the Federal poverty guideline for a family of four in 2015 is $24,250. In 2016, that employee would receive $20,000 before taxes – still well below the poverty line.
The efforts of wage campaigns such as Fight for $15 and OUR Walmart have not only put pressure on employers, but have also raised awareness of the workers’ struggles among the public, doubtlessly contributing to Walmart’s decision to raise wages. However, we must not let up in our demands. Walmart estimates that it will cost $1 billion to implement the wage increases, and to invest training, hiring, scheduling, and store management. With an annual net income of $16 billion, Walmart’s profits will be largely unaffected by these wage increases. In fact, Walmart will likely recoup a portion of these expenses through improved staff retention. Thus, we must see these wage increases for what they are: miserly attempts to undercut demands for $15 an hour.
As socialists, we call for the abolition of the wage system in its entirety. But we also recognize that there will be transitional demands. First, let us demand that none of our fellow workers be left in poverty. Do not let Walmart’s wage increases dissuade you – the owners and stockholders will continue to gorge themselves on the fruits of labor while our fellow workers continue to languish. Stand with our fellow workers to demand $15 an hour!