There are the Walmart-related headlines Walmart wants you to read, the headlines Donald Trump wants you to readÂ and the headlines neither Walmart nor Trump want you to read. Walmart wants you to read the good news: itâ€™s raising its minimum wage from $9-10 to $11 an hour, and expanding paid parentalÂ leave benefits. Donald Trump wants you to read that the company isÂ giving creditÂ for that move to the recent Republican corporate tax cuts. Neither of them wants you to think much about the years-long worker organizing campaign to demand improved wages and benefits, and they definitely donâ€™t want you to think about the news that also just came out that Samâ€™s Club, the Walmart warehouse chain, is closing dozens of stores, if not more.
At least 63 Sam’s Club storesÂ are closing, with some having closed Thursday without notice to workers. Thatâ€™s the number the company is giving out, but CBS News says itÂ may be much higherâ€”up to 260 stores. With an estimated 175 workers per store, on average, that means that around 11,000 to as many as 45,000 people could be out of work. At the same time as Walmart says its raises are all about those tax cuts, mind you.
Now, about those Walmart raises and benefits. Itâ€™s great that the company is raising its minimum wage to $11. But isnâ€™t it interesting that this isÂ the third recent company-wide minimum pay raiseÂ in recent years, and yet weâ€™re supposed to believe that itâ€™s all about theÂ Republican tax law?
â€śWalmart has made similar announcements in the recent pastâ€¦ even when no tax reform could have affected its decision,â€ť said Gary Burtless, an economist with the Brookings Institution.
The new Walmart employee wage increase follows two earlier pay hikes the retailer implemented in 2015 and 2016 that raised hourly worker pay to $9 and $10 an hour, respectively. (Today, new hires start at $9 and move up to $10 after completing a training course.)
Workers already making $11 an hour will get bonuses based on how long theyâ€™ve been working at Walmart. Full-time hourly workers will also become eligible forÂ 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of paid parental leave, up from a shorter period of partially paid maternity leave and zero parental leave. But the fact that this only applies to full-time workers means thatÂ Walmartâ€™s large part-time workforce isÂ left out. And workers have been pressing hard for these changes.
In December, 2017, Mary Pat Tifft, a Walmart associate, with support fromÂ PL+US and Zevin Asset Management, filed aÂ shareholder resolutionÂ calling on the company to address the discrepancies in their Paid Leave Policy. Â In June 2017, OUR Walmart and their supporters delivered overÂ 100,000 signaturesÂ to Walmart Headquarters last year calling for the change to Walmartâ€™s Paid Leave Policy. Â The changes directly address the issues OUR Walmart, PL+US and others have raised: adding paternity coverage, adoptive parent benefits and parity with the policy provided to Walmart executives. While impactful for full time associates, Walmart has a high percentage of part-time employees who will not be covered by this new policy.
Walmart associate and OUR Walmart leader Carolyn Davis spoke at Walmartâ€™s 2017 annual shareholder meeting said: â€śInvesting in associates means that new parents at Walmart are allowed time to bond with our children. Â Walmartâ€™s female executives receive 10 weeks of paid family leave. Letâ€™s do the same for hourly associates – women and menâ€ť.
â€śThe change in policy to 10 weeks paid maternity leave to match what Walmart executives were getting is exactly what OUR Walmart and our Respect the Bump campaign has been calling for. I just had a baby, if I had 10 weeks of paid leave it would have made all the difference in the world. Instead, I had to postpone paying for car insurance and had to leave my newborn and get back to work before I was ready. Â This new policy will make sure that full-time associates like me wonâ€™t have that do that, but it leaves part-time associates behind,â€ť explained Walmart associate Liz Loudermilk from Seneca, SC.
Yeah, Walmart is getting a fat tax cut from Republicans. But that didnâ€™t save Samâ€™s Club workers, andÂ this isnâ€™t the first time in the past few years WalmartÂ hasÂ given its lowest-paidÂ workers a raise. And the workers pressing the company to do better not just on wages but on parental leave clearly helped shape its new policy on that front, even if the company didnâ€™t go all the way.
This blog was originally published at DailyKos on January 11, 2018. Reprinted with permission.Â
About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at DailyKos.