The question now is whether that will spread. Beginning in April, Walmart employees' starting pay will be $9 an hour. By February 2016, U.S. associates will earn $10 an hour, new associates will still start at $9, and after a six-month training period will earn $10 an hour, according to the company.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson applauds Walmart’s bold, new initiatives that would, in part, raise pay for all current associates. Other initiatives announced by the Arkansas-based company and world’s largest retailer include a promise to provide career opportunities for its associates, as well as a commitment to work with their schedules.
Hutchinson said, “The Walmart story has always been about the American Dream. Sam Walton embodied that dream, building the world’s largest retailer through hard work, vision and exceeding the expectations of his customers. He would be proud of the forward-thinking plan announced by Walmart today. This is especially good news for Arkansas and its 51,000 Walmart associates.
It took less than a week for TJX, the parent company of T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and Home Goods, to announce that it too would be increasing wages, first to $9 an hour in June, and then to $10 an hour next year.
"We did what we did for a number of reasons," Bill Wertz, spokesman for Walmart said. "I guess we could say we made these changes really to give our associates more opportunity and more flexibility, because the announcement covered more than just the minimum wage."
Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pennsylvania, said the move is positive for workers, as it will give them more spending power. "The money is going to go to people who tend to spend all of their income," Naroff said. "If you're working at an hourly job, you're probably not a highly paid worker, and you're not saving a lot of money to begin with, so that money's going to go right back into the economy."
Naroff said that big box companies can afford the cost it takes to raise wages for employees, although some might argue that higher wages means layoffs, or price increases, to reclaim that profit.
However, he said if Walmart were able to raise their prices, they would've done it already. "Walmart and the T.J. Maxx group have shown that they can afford higher wages because they've announced they're going to do it without layoffs," he said. "They either will continue to be in same spot where they can't raise prices, or any prices increase they can push for will be minimal."
Walmart CEO Doug MicMillon also announced that along with the pay hike, which will affect 500,000 employees this year, store managers and hourly employees will receive additional training.