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Are Low Retail Wages Required For Low Prices?

Catherine Ruetschlin

It’s the biggest shopping season on the calendar and retail companies are expecting hundreds of billions of dollars in sales. To meet this demand, retail pulls in around 600,000 seasonal workers on top of a workforce of 15 million.  This massive work force is majority female and fairly diverse – people of color comprise about 30 percent of workers in the sector.  It is also low-paid. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical cashier makes just $18,500 per year for full time work. The nation’s largest employer and largest employer of African Americans – Walmart – is engaged in a struggle to keep it that way.   Right as we turn to these workers to provide assistance and advice during the holiday season, many retail employees are striking for basic respect. And they deserve it.  A new paper by Demos shows that retail employers can afford to pay decent wages, and the benefits would feed back into the economy as higher GDP, more jobs, less poverty, and even higher retail sales.