In a surprise move, Walmart announced that they are raising the minimum wage for their workers to $9 per hour in April, rising to $10 per hour in February 2016. Walmart is one of the worst exploiters and abusers of its workers, paying low wages and subjecting them to poor working conditions.
Big business and the Republican party have been fighting efforts to raise the federal minimum wage above its current appalling level of $7.25 per hour (some states have higher rates) so why this change? One reason may be that the pressure exerted by advocates for raising the minimum wage has had some effect, generating bad publicity for these companies. Another might be that the improving economy may be making it harder for them to recruit and retain workers. Whatever the reasons, Walmart’s defection should weaken those opposing the rise in the minimum wage.
Of course, what is needed is for companies to pay a living wage, currently estimated at $15 per hour, and then peg it to inflation. Big business and its supporters argue that this will be bad for the economy because it will make them less competitive and thus cost jobs. The city of Seattle has in place a plan that will eventually raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2017 for big businesses, starting with $11 in April, though that is being threatened by a state bill that would take away the power of cities to set minimum wages.