Demos Report: Walmart Would Benefit From a Higher Wage

Demos, a think tank based in New York City, this week released an updated version of its 2013 report on the feasibility of raising the wages of Walmart employees to at least $25,000 a year. A $25K annual wage has been a commonly-quoted figure when discussing the wages of Walmart employees, 825,000 of whom earn wages below that. It is also one of the immediate goals of OUR Walmart. OUR Walmart stands for Organization United for Respect at Walmart. It’s a nationwide group of current and former Walmart Associates working together to change the company for the better.

Demos’ report describes the flagging performance at Walmart, citing its lack of investment in human capital as one of the primary reasons for Walmart’s trend of declining sales. Underpaid associates and understaffed stores result in reduced performance, which causes Walmart to lose money. Additionally, the pay practices of Walmart have a negative influence on the local economy, with reduced spending and quality of health care common among those Walmart employs.

The solution for Walmart, Demos explains, is better human capital management. Last year, Walmart’s repurchasing of its own stock resulted in spending in excess of $6.6 billion – a practice with the goal of reducing the amount of publicly traded shares, increasing earnings per share. But if Walmart chose to invest that money into creating pay raises for its associates, Demos reports, it would likely benefit Walmart as a business as well as its associates and the economy, boosting production, performance, and sales.

Women in Retail: Equality is a Long Way Off

Despite advances in gender equality, female retail workers in the U.S. continue to work with less pay than their male counterparts. According to a recent Demos report, female retail workers earn just $10.58 an hour on average, compared to male retail workers’ $14.62 an hour. This pay inequality is experienced by 2.2 million women working in a workforce of 4.6 million, where they consist of slightly less than half of the workforce but 55.4% of the low-wage workers in retail.

Lower wages are only part of the problem, though: many employers do not provide regular schedules or appropriate advance notice of hours to be worked, leading to an uncertain and insufficient income flow for many retail workers. As a result, 1.3 million women in retail are earning wages that keep them at or near the poverty line.

The retail industry is an important factor in the worldwide economy. Like manufacturing once was, retail is now a huge and growing sector of the U.S. economy. The millions of retail workers in America will define what it means to be working middle class in America – from quality of life, to wages and benefits, to how workers are treated by employers nationwide. The gender inequality in the retail industry doesn’t  just impact retail workers and their families, but the American middle class in its entirety.

Unions are one of the most effective ways workers can advocate themselves and their co-workers. For workers in sectors such as retail, joining a union is the best way to ensure a middle-class job with a fair wage and benefits. In 2013, unionized workers earned a weekly take-home wage of $950, compared to $750 for non-unionized workers.

When women join a union, they see an even more pronounced improvement in their wages and benefits: On average, their wages rise by 12.9% and they receive higher chances of receiving employer-provided health insurance or retirement plans. In 2013, women 16 and older who were members of a union earned $898 weekly, while those who were non-union earned $676: a difference of more than $200 a week.

The UFCW, together with the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), is the largest retail union in the United States, and it is committed to bringing up working standards in retail. Our local unions mobilize to negotiate for competitive union contracts that raise wages and provide fair employment benefits. We advocate for laws and policies that help the working class, and empower our union members to do the same through campaigns such as those at Walmart, Macy’s, and Bloomingdale’s. Together, we raise the bar for the retail industry with the goal of making retail the ideal of what the American middle class should have in employment.

UFCW Local 23 and Other Allies Launch ‘Pittsburgh Works’

1238913_1429554197311547_5239123021104960426_nAlong with Pittsburgh UNITED and other allies like Working America, UFCW Local 23 is helping to launch a new good jobs initiative called Pittsburgh Works.

The program will shine a light on good employers who invest in their workers, support workers–particularly low wage service workers–wherever they are, and call out employers who do not invest in their workforce, who aren’t good corporate neighbors, or who are bad actors in some way.

Local 23 began thinking about such an initiative in connection with its Giant Eagle campaign–to give kudos to grocers that treated workers well–but then expanded the idea to include other types of workers, like janitors and retailers.

On Tuesday, UFCW Local 23 members and other folks involved with the new program held an action to support Walmart moms who are currently on strike across the country, as they shine a light on Walmart’s retaliatory labor practices and policies that economically punish its workers.

Check out the Pittsburgh Works facebook page here: and follow us them on Twitter and instagram @PittsburghWorks