Walmart and Wages

The New York Times tells us that Walmart:

the largest private employer in the country, said on Thursday that it would increase wages for a half-million employees, a move that comes amid persistent scrutiny of its labor practices and high employee turnover.

That is, the NYT has been investigating Walmart for years and can’t understand why anyone would want to shop there or work there.  This happened for some unknown reason.  Perhaps it is related to global warming.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page has a more serious take on the events:

[The] decision to raise the minimum pay of some 500,000 employees is being portrayed as either enlightened or cynical self-interest, depending on your point of view. We’re agnostic on the point, but one thing the decision isn’t is an argument for a higher minimum wage mandated by government.

Keeping government out of setting wages is obvious.  We would like to discuss the enlightened and cynical self-interest.  We are not agnostic.  We think it is both.  As the labor market slooowly improves, it makes sense for Walmart to stay ahead of it by being an early adopter of higher prices for labor.  It is enlightened for them to recognize that they can increase profits by continuing to influence the labor markets as the largest private employer.

It is cynical in the way that they sell the change.  They say they want to show the associates how much they care.  At the same time it is clear that digital is becoming an increasingly bigger story at Walmart.  They would rather give the associates a fruit basket than $1 an hour forever but the market demands the latter.  The cynicism is selling it as more than a market change.


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