Wal-Mart: raise the minimum wageSo what should one make of a recent call by Wal-Mart to raise the minimum wage? Their rational is that the low national minimum wage, which has been $5.15 an hour for almost a decade, has harmed Wal-Mart's core consumer base: low income earners.
On one hand, it's hard to take it seriously coming from them. It seems to me that if they wanted low income earners to have more money, they could do a lot simply by raising wages for their own workers. I don't know a lot about labor law but it seems you don't need Congressional action to give your staff more money.
And it's worth being skeptical of Wal-Mart's intentions given their alleged propensity to force workers to work overtime for free or deny them lunch breaks. I guess they don't know much about labor law either. Raising the minimum wage only helps workers if the employer actually pays it.
Or alternatively, Wal-Mart could use some of its $10 billion profits to provide health care to the majority of its staff that's not covered so that workers could use their wages could be used on other essentials. Maybe then they'd have less turnover and would spend less money training new 'associates.'
On the other hand, the call does hammer another nail into the most common argument against the minimum wage and raises of it, specifically that they harm business. Wal-Mart says that raising the minimum wage would HELP its business because its customers would have more money to spend.
Of course, it's easy to see this as a gimmick by Wal-Mart to deflect attention away from their battered image. And I have no doubt that this is the reasoning behind it. But let's give them the benefit of the doubt. If they're serious are higher wages for low income workers, by all means let them lead the way!
So workers want a higher minimum wage because they want to be able to pay for essentials. Small businesses want a higher minimum wage so big businesses can't lowball them anymore. Big businesses (at least this particular one) want a higher minimum wage so their customers will have more money to spend. Consensus at last!