US: Walmart to raise starting wages, hand out bonuses

By Barry Eitel

Walmart announced Thursday it was raising its minimum wage across the U.S. to $11 per hour and giving $1,000 bonuses to some employees.

The country’s largest employer said it was paying higher wages to its more than 1 million hourly workers because of corporate tax cuts recently passed by Congress.

“Today, we are building on investments we’ve been making in associates, in their wages and skills development,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in a statement.

“It’s our people who make the difference, and we appreciate how they work hard to make every day easier for busy families.”

The move was heralded by the White House, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin thanking the company during a news conference.

“Walmart is the latest company to make such an announcement, directly result of the Tax Cuts Act,” he said.

The raises, though, were instantly criticized by some as a public relations stunt to boost opinions on a controversial tax reform bill that lowered the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

Soon after the Republican bill passed Congress last month, companies including Wells Fargo, Boeing and AT&T said they would raise wages and hand out bonuses.

The Walmart bonuses are based on how long employees have worked with the company. Only workers who have been employed for 20 years or more will receive the full $1,000.

Charles Fishman, who wrote the book ‘The Wal-Mart Effect’ about the international implications of Walmart’s business model, said the move likely means the company is worried about employees seeking higher wages at competitors like Amazon. He also believes the move means Walmart thinks the economy is not about to go into a recession.

“Walmart sees unemployment staying low & Walmart — [with] low-pay, challenging work — must get competitive or lose staff,” Fishman wrote on Twitter.

On the same day as the wage hike announcement, Walmart said it was closing more than 60 Sam’s Club stores, a Walmart subsidiary, across the country.

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