Back in 2005, many people were shocked when then CEO Lee Scott came out publicly to express Walmart's support for an increase of the minimum wage, which was then at $5.15 an hour. Today, many believe Walmart's management has given tacit, if not official, support for another hike since the company has not openly opposed it.
Bill Simon, president of Walmart U.S., told The Wall Street Journal, "We are not opposed to minimum wage increase, unless it's directed exclusively at us." Mr. Simon's disclaimer referenced an effort by the Washington D.C. city council to impose a higher starting wage on Walmart than other employers in the district.
Part of Walmart's support (our words) comes from the company's contention that it pays higher than minimum wage now. The company estimates that only about 5,000 of its 1.3 million workers in the U.S. are paid the minimum. In essence, if the federal government mandates that other companies pay higher wages, Walmart will benefit.
Walmart will also benefit from many of its low-income customers having more in their purses and wallets to spend. The company has seen customer traffic fall for six straight quarters while same-store sales have been down for five consecutive quarters.
Back in 2005, Mr. Scott said that doing the right thing was critical to Walmart's culture. It was with that as a backdrop that he and the company threw support behind raising the minimum wage. Roughly eight-and-a-half years later, Walmart has taken a more nuanced approach.
"Just because we don't oppose it, doesn't mean we support it," Brooke Buchanan, a Walmart spokesperson, told The Wall Street Journal. Of course, Ms. Buchanan could have also said that just because Walmart doesn't support it, doesn't mean it opposes it either. ;o)
How much would Walmart be helped or hurt by Congress passing an increase in the minimum wage?