February 22, 2015

If Wal-Mart can do it, why not congress?

The retail giant Wal-Mart got a lot of attention last week with the announcement that around half a million of its workers would get a raise in April, setting their wage floor at $9 per hour. The plan is to move it to $10 by next year. This is due in part to a big push by Wal-Mart workers, labor groups and others to get the company to step up.

The NY Times made some interesting points in this editorial:

There is no doubt, for example, that many more workers at Walmart (and elsewhere) would be making the federal minimum wage but for the fact that 29 states and the District of Columbia, as well as some cities, now have minimums above the federal level.
There is also little doubt that Walmart (and other employers) would pay more if low wages were not, in effect, subsidized by taxpayers, who pay for the food stamps and other public assistance that low-wage workers rely on to get by. This argues for improved labor standards that would shift the burden back to employers.
Clearly, the federal minimum wage, unchanged since 2009, needs updating. Overtime-pay standards have not been meaningfully updated since the mid-1970s. Collective bargaining protections also have been serially weakened by legislation in the states and by court rulings.
Roger to all that.

Meanwhile, the federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 for almost six years. The obvious question is, if Wal-Mart can do it, why can't Congress? But I think most people reading this know the answer to that.

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