Statement from the Economic Policy Institute’s Research Director Josh Bivens on the news that Wal-Mart will slowly increase their hourly wage floor:
“Wal-Mart’s statement that it will be raising wages for many of its workers is obviously welcome on its face. Yet the excitement generated by this announcement really just highlights how beaten down expectations about wage-growth in the U.S. economy have become. Let’s be clear about this: wages rising should be the norm in the American economy and should happen all the time without fanfare. The fact that an announcement that some workers in one company might get a raise is treated as a newsworthy blockbuster shows just how far we have to go before we have an economy that is genuinely working for most Americans.
“Finally, some have claimed that today’s announcement is evidence that the problem of sluggish wage-growth for the vast majority of Americans is behind us. For example, the National Retail Federation has claimed that today’s announcement means that Congress need not act to raise the federal minimum wage. This argument is a mix of stupid and self-serving. For example, even if all 500,000 Wal-Mart workers identified in today’s announcement actually get a raise, this pales in comparison to the roughly 27 million workers that would have gotten a raise under last year’s Harkin-Miller bill to increase the Federal minimum wage to $10.10—more than 50 times more workers than under Wal-Mart’s policy change. Further, unless Wal-Mart and every other employer in American commits to wage-growth going forward from now that tracks overall economy-wide productivity, our wage-growth problem is nowhere near solved, and serious measures (like the kind we highlight in our Raising America’s Pay project) are still needed.”