Scott: Raising Minimum Wage is the Right Thing to Do
By George Anderson
Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart, says doing the right thing is something that is bred into the company’s culture.
In a recent speech, Mr. Scott outlined a number of changes that his company is taking to make sure it continues to do the right thing. (See full text: Twenty
First Century Leadership, Presented by Lee Scott, October 24, 2005 – PDF format)
Wal-Mart has given notice to overseas suppliers that they will be held to a higher standard in how they treat employees and how their operations affect the environment. The company
has expanded its health care coverage options for employees (see RetailWire 10/24/05, Wal-Mart
Making Benefits More Affordable), and embarked on a program to reduce greenhouse gases and eventually “to be supplied by 100 percent renewable energy” and to “create zero
Mr. Scott also expressed concern for the welfare of his customers, many of whom are at the bottom of the economic ladder. Doing the right thing, Mr. Scott said, involves lobbying lawmakers to raise the national minimum wage.
“The U.S. minimum wage of $5.15 an hour has not been raised in nearly a decade and we believe it is out of date with the times. We can see first-hand at Wal-Mart how many of our customers are struggling to get by. We have seen an increase in spending on the 1st and the 15th of each month and less spending at the end of the month, letting us know that our customers simply dont have the money to buy basic necessities between pay checks.”
Acknowledging that it was unusual for the company to take such a public position on an issue of national economic policy, Mr. Scott said, “Given increasing gas prices and other economic pressures on our customers, the challenges will continue for many of them to support themselves and their families” adding, “We simply believe it is time for Congress to take a responsible look at the minimum wage and other legislation that may help working families.”
Moderator’s Comment: Should the rest of the retail industry get behind Wal-Mart’s call and lobby Congress for the national minimum wage to be raised?
Wal-Mart’s Scott responded to critics over how well the company pays its own: “Last year we earned $10 billion in profits, so our critics argue that we
should pay more to our Associates. But I ask anyone to do the math. Even slight overall adjustments to wages eliminate our thin profit margin. Because we are so big, people forget
that we have to compete. There are excellent retail competitors in every category we serve. When we look at our wages and benefits — and theirs — we almost always pay better,
but that is also often overlooked or ignored in the public debate about Wal-Mart.” –
George Anderson – Moderator