Pressure on Big Retailers to Boost Retail Pay

November 19, 2012 | | The Fiscal Times |

Black Friday has heaped new pressure on big box stores to bump up worker pay, with a group of Walmart employees plotting a walkout on the country’s biggest shopping day and the think tank Demos releasing a study Monday that touts the benefits of higher wages.

More than 7.5 million Americans work year-round at large retailers, a substantial and growing chunk of the workforce. The new Demos study rests on setting a baseline salary of $12.25 an hour. That’s $5 an hour more than the current federal minimum wage, but it’s slightly below the average hourly wage paid by “general merchandise stores” that range from high-end department stores to discount chains, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The low wages enforce a vicious cycle for policymakers. More families depend on government services to get by because of their low incomes, which in turn lead retailers to increasingly compete on price and restrict salary growth.