Walmart raises minimum wage for US employees, announces store closings

World Today

In this Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, photo, Laila Ummelaila, a personal shopper at the Walmart store in Old Bridge, N.J., pushes a cart with bins as she shops for online shoppers. On Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, Walmart announced it is boosting its starting salary for U.S. workers to $11 an hour, giving a one-time $1,000 cash bonus to eligible employees and expanding its maternity and parental leave benefits. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The world’s biggest private employer is handing out raises to its American workers. Walmart is upping its minimum wage, because of recent tax cuts, they have said. Not all employees are happy, however. The company also announced that it’s closing dozens of stores.

CGTN’s Jim Spellman reports.

U.S. President Donald Trump and the Republican Party promised their tax reform bill would lead to higher wages and economic growth.

“As we speak, Congress has reached an agreement on tax legislation that will deliver more jobs, higher wages and massive tax relief for American families and for American companies,” the president said in December.

Now, U.S. retail giant Walmart says many of its employees are getting raises and bonuses as a direct result of the new tax.

“The President and Congress have approved a lower business tax rate,” CEO Doug McMillon said. “Given these changes, we have an opportunity to accelerate a few pieces of our investment plan… we’re raising our starting wage to $11 an hour.”

The company is also providing a one-time bonus to hourly associates, with employees receiving a larger amount the longer they’ve been with the company. Bonuses range from $200 up to $1,000.

Additionally, Walmart is expanding maternity and paternity leave, and will contribute $5,000 to help employees adopting children. According to the company, the changes will benefit more than a million hourly employees in the U.S.

But it’s not all good news for Walmart workers. On the same day the raises and bonuses were announced, the company also stated it would close dozens of its Sam’s Club stores. Thousands of those employees will likely lose their jobs.

The White House is praising the raises and bonus, but refused to address the store closings.

Walmart has long faced criticism that it exploits workers through low wages and poor benefits. Facing protests, the company raised base wages to $9 in 2015, then $10 an hour last year.

Even at $11 an hour, however, many employees will struggle to get by. The U.S. federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, but in many cities and states the minimum is much higher. In Washington, D.C., for example, the base wage is $11.50, and will go up another dollar later this year.

Many anti-poverty advocates say even that’s too low. They’re pushing for a $15 an hour national wage, arguing that no one working full-time in the U.S. should live in poverty.