Chief Doug McMillon of Walmart Stores Inc. raised employee wages in an attempt to ameliorate worker conditions, but it caused more harm than good.
Walmart employees complained about the result in interviews and through Facebook. While new workers will get a wage increase from $9 an hour to $10 an hour, workers who have been around longer will see no change in wage growth.
Charmaine Givens-Thomas, a 10-year Walmart veteran, said, “It is pitting people against each other. It hurts morale when people feel like they aren’t being appreciated. I hear people every day talking about looking for other jobs and wanting to remove themselves from Wal-Mart and a job that will make them feel like that.” Givens-Thomas works at a store near Chicago, and makes $12 an hour. She also belongs to OUR Walmart, a union-supported group. She keeps regular contact with her Walmart colleagues.
Some Walmart workers stated that their hours are cut and yearly raises are reduced to cover the new workers’ wages. Walmart denies these claims, and states that it’s making sure all employees have higher-paying opportunities in the future.
The wage increase was made to combat income inequality. But, if Walmart doesn’t pay veteran workers properly, they could face growing animosity, said David Cooper, an economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute. Studies show that when employers get a pay boost, they also give raises to workers making $1 to $2 above the minimum wage to keep them happy.
Kristin Oliver, WalMart’s U.S. human resources chief, said executives knew the minimum wage increase would make those left out feel deprived. Walmart has been listening to angry complaints and sees that the new policy could contribute to higher turnover, she said.
Walmart has made changes to the scheduling system to assist workers in obtaining more hours and training those who seek promotion. They announced the scheduling changes and training programs during the wage hike to retain workers, said Kory Lundberg, a Walmart spokesman.
Oliver said, “We are constantly looking and evolving what the right pay should be and we were aware of the issue. We weren’t prepared to go forward with any additional increases but have continued to look at it to see if there is something else we should do for those in the middle.”
Jeannette Wicks-Lim, an assistant research professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, said that additional wages for minimum wage workers would cost Walmart about $400 million. She based her research on raises retail industries gave out after state and federal minimum wage increases in the past.
In spite of the new scheduling system and training program, not all of the workers are satisfied. Sal Fuentes, an overnight forklift worker at a Walmart in Duarte, California, thinks the company will take some of his and other senior workers’ money to cover the wage increases of the new employees.
Laura Giuliano, an associate professor of economics at the University of Miami, stated that workers are more concerned about what their colleagues are making than what people at other companies are making. She also said wage difference, even a small one, can seem unfair to a worker.