Today, the federal minimum wage stands at $7.25 per hour — the same rate it’s been when it got its last boost in 2009.
But at a number of retailers and in their warehouses across the country, many workers are receiving a third more or nearly double that hourly rate. Big-box giants Walmart and Target as well as e-commerce behemoth Amazon are among the companies that have raised their starting hourly wages for employees.
With unemployment still hovering near a 50-year low, retailers are finding themselves hard-pressed in the pursuit of qualified candidates who have the leverage to demand higher compensation. To that end, an ability to offer competitive wages and salaries has become an important tool in helping firms attract and retain talent as well as motivate their existing workforce.
Here, FN looks at the starting hourly pay for three of retail’s biggest players to see how they stack up.
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The Bentonville, Ark.-headquartered chain — the largest private employer in the U.S. — has been testing a higher minimum wage for newly named roles at about 500 locations across the country. Walmart’s team associates — from cashiers to shelf stockers — would receive $12 an hour while team leaders’ wages start at $18 an hour, as part of an overall strategy to empower its staff. The starting hourly pay remains at $11 and has not changed.
“Customers have changed what they expect from an in-store experience,” a Walmart spokesperson told FN today. “How we work needs to match how customers shop and what they want. We need to ensure when a customer engages with an associate, they find a well-rounded level of experience and knowledge.”
When it last announced a wage hike, in January 2018, Walmart said it was raising its starting wage from $9 to $11 as it put to use new kickbacks from the tax reform law, which reduced corporate rates. However, the company took flak for announcing the same day its plans to lay off nearly 10,000 workers. The cuts came with the closure of 63 of its then-660 Sam’s Club stores as part of its efforts to streamline its brick-and-mortar business and invest further in e-commerce.
Target increased its hourly wage by a dollar to $13 in June as part of a commitment to hit $15 an hour by the end of 2020. The Minneapolis-based retailer employs more than 300,000 workers and operates nearly 1,850 stores across the country.
“It takes a diverse, high-performing and engaged team to create experiences that make guests feel welcome and inspired, and keep them coming back,” human resources chief Melissa Kremer wrote in a blog post on Target’s website at the time. “So investing in our team members is essential to keep our business growing and thriving.”
Target announced in September 2017 plans to raise its minimum wage from $10 to $11, and implemented that change the following month. In March 2018, it bumped that number up a dollar, and during the 2018 holiday season, the company hired 120,000 seasonal employees who started at $12 or more.
In November 2018, Amazon raised its minimum wage to $15 for all employees across the U.S. The hike impacted more than 250,000 full-time, part-time and temporary workers, including those hired by agencies, as well as more than 100,000 seasonal employees.
Five months later, the e-commerce giant’s CEO and founder Jeff Bezos issued a challenge to his retail rivals in his annual letter to shareholders. “Match our employee benefits and our $15 minimum wage,” Bezos told his unnamed competitors. “You know who you are. … Better yet, go to $16 and throw the gauntlet back at us. It’s a kind of competition that will benefit everyone.”
Amazon, however, isn’t without its controversies. Prior to the minimum wage hike, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Ro Khanna introduced the “Bezos Act” after finding that the median annual salary for the Seattle-based company’s workers was $28,000, with about half falling under that amount. The legislation proposed taxing corporations, including Amazon and Walmart, for every dollar their low-wage workers received in government assistance. Sanders has since commended Amazon for raising wages.
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