As planned Black Friday strikes draw increasing media attention, Walmart continues to publicly dismiss the actions as stunts and the workers involved as an unrepresentative fringe. But workers charge that behind closed doors, the company is waging a stepped-up campaign to to intimidate them out of striking. That includes both alleged illegal threats and punishments, and likely legal mandatory meetings designed to discourage workers from joining the Black Friday rebellion.
OUR Walmart members aren’t the only ones calling on Walmart to pay better. Yesterday, the progressive think tank Demos released a new study, Retail’s Hidden Potential: How Raising Wages Would Benefit Workers, the Industry and the Overall Economy. Demos proposes that major retailers voluntarily implement a minimum wage floor equivalent to $25,000 a year for a full-time worker. Its report concludes that such a policy would lift 1.5 million retail workers and relatives out of poverty or near-poverty, create 100,000 or more jobs, and generate over $4 billion in additional retail sales. “This could be a private sector stimulus,” report author Catherine Ruetschlin told The Nation, “with no enforcement from the government at all.”
Ruetschlin’s report finds that the proposed wage floor would increase prices by no more than 1 percent, but could also be accomplished without any price hike at all. It notes that major retailers spend billions more on repurchasing their own stock than it would cost them to implement the proposed wage floor. Echoing OUR Walmart, Ruetschlin argues that a wage increase would pay its own dividends for Walmart in the form of greater consumer demand, increased productivity and better worker retention.
“What we’ve really shown with this report,” said Ruetschlin, “is that low wages are a business choice, and that they’re not the right business choice.”