Walmart Inc.’s promise to raise its average hourly wage above $ 15 comes amid a debate in Washington over whether to more than double the federal minimum wage.
The big-box retailer’s goal is politically significant because it aligns with President Biden’s proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an hour from $ 7.25 an hour that has been in effect for 11 years. It also comes from the largest private employer in the country, with stores located in different labor markets across the country.
But Walmart’s announcement on Thursday is not an endorsement of Biden’s plan, which is part of a $ 1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief proposal by Democrats in Congress that is expected to pass in the House. at the end of this month. The company supports a higher federal minimum wage, but not $ 15 an hour. While he plans to raise the wage of 425,000 hourly workers from an average of above $ 14 in January 2020, his starting minimum wage would remain at $ 11 an hour.
Still, the company’s move could play both sides of the federal minimum wage debate.
Democrats supporting Biden’s pay plan can argue that Walmart’s pay increases are proof that employers can afford pay increases despite the economic disruptions of the pandemic, economists and analysts say. Republicans who oppose doubling the federal pay floor will likely see it as an example of effective free market forces, arguing that the government doesn’t need to intervene.