The recent decision by Gap Inc. to raise wages for its 65,000 hourly retail workers serves as a challenge to Walmart. Gap realizes that paying its hourly workers enough to support themselves is a good business investment that benefits the economy, and it’s imperative the Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, follow its lead.
As the largest private employer in the country, Walmart can afford to pay its workers more. The company made $17 billion in profits in the last fiscal year, and just six members of the Walton Family—heirs to the Walmart empire —have a combined family fortune that is estimated to be over $144.7 billion. Their net worth is already greater than the wealth held by 42 percent of American families combined.
Academics at the University of California-Berkeley estimated that Walmart could well afford a wage increase to at least $12.00 an hour for workers with minimal impact on consumer prices. And a report from the think tank Demos shows that Walmart could easily provide workers with full-time jobs that pay a minimum annual wage of $25,000 without raising prices simply by reinvesting the billions it now spends repurchasing its own stock.
The time is now for Walmart to show leadership and responsibility to its workers and our communities by following Gap’s example and publicly commit to raising wages and increasing access to full-time hours so that no worker at Walmart makes less than $25,000 per year.