Walmart announced that it will raise its minimum hourly wage to $9 and increase that wage to $10 next year. It’s great that the company has made this move on its own. However, will this raise really change the lives of its workers? A person making $9 an hour will still be earning about $20,000 a year – if she is working full time. If the worker is a parent, she will certainly still need public aid for food and housing. In essence, working people and the middle class will continue to be underwriting Walmart’s work force. We need to establish a living wage and commit ourselves as citizens to paying a little extra so we can all live decent lives.
Laura Clawson of Daily Kos contrasts retail stores that will be open on Thanksgiving and those that won’t. She quotes statements by an executive from Costco, who says that his company respects its employees, and an executive from Walmart, who says something about employees being excited to work on a “high energy day.”
While I think the companies are wrong to be open on this day, we as consumers bear guilt for this circumstance. If consumers valued the holiday over bargains, the stores would not be open. Corporations may be vile in their love of profit, but we are too often complicit in beating up our fellow workers.
I don’t have time for a post today, but I would recommend this piece by Canadian union leader Gary Engler. He examines how our self-definition as workers (and I would add citizens) has been replaced by an idea of ourselves as consumers, people who only know themselves by what they buy, not what they make.