Walmart is by far the nation's largest retailer, with 2.2 million employees (the next largest is Target with 365,000), and its low wages have set the tone for a nation where the majority of jobs created in the so-called economic recovery pay less than $13.83 per hour.
Catherine Ruetschlin, a policy analyst at the nonpartisan thinkthank Demos and author of its new report, Retail's Hidden Potential: How Raising Wages Would Benefit Workers, the Industry and the Economy Overall, has said:
"Walmart has been shown to come into a community, pay lower wages than the traditional wage standard, and actually depress the wage standard in the area."
Manuela Rosales makes $10.70 an hour at the Pico Rivera, California Walmart. I heard her break down in tears on a conference call, as she explained that the $750 or so she takes home after taxes every couple of weeks barely lets her care for her two-year-old son.
"They have it set up to take it or leave it and most people will not leave it," Johnson said. With average unemployment still hovering around 8%(and much high for minorities), workers are forced to take what they can get, even if "what they can get" leaves them working long hours over the holidays. If Walmart were to adopt the higher standard she suggests in her report, Ruetschlin asserts:
"Being the largest employer in the United States … they would have significant impact. Based on prior research, it's absolutely reasonable to think they would raise standards for everyone."