Can Walmart keep its ‘always low prices’ and pay workers fairly?

Updated

Walmart workers joined the stampeding hordes of shoppers who lined up outside of the retail store during the early hours of Black Friday, but not to pick up on the “door-busting” deals.

Protesters rallied against the retailer’s low-wages and working conditions outside of 1,000 Walmart stores across 46 states, according to the union-backed group OUR Walmart —all on one of the biggest sale days of the year.

Despite the disruption, Walmart executives boasted its “best ever Black Friday,” and said that “less than 50 associates participated” in the protests nationwide. “In fact, this year, roughly the same number of associates missed their scheduled shift as last year,” Walmart CEO Bill Simon said in a statement.

The protester’s focus on Walmart’s low wages—which, according to leaked documents, can be a base pay as low as $8.00 an hour—concerned skeptics who worried about the costs to consumers should the retailer’s “always low-prices” suddenly rise in order to accommodate higher worker pay.

“Walmart’s prices aren’t just a little bit lower, they’re substantially lower,” Peter Suderman of Reason said Saturday on Up w/ Chris Hayes. ”This is a huge boon to the lowest fifth of the American consumer—to the people who are the least well off in the country.”

Fellow Up panelist Douglas Rushkoff countered Suderman’s argument, saying that local towns and communities were actually “net-poorer” due to Walmart’s “extractive force.”

“The cost of those prices is that you end up with Walmart workers on welfare rolls,”Rushkoff said.

Suderman followed up the segment with a 17-point “truthbomb” via Twitter with a take-down of anti-Walmart sentiment:

 Raise prices to pay for increased wages and you cut into the store’s huge low-price benefits for the poor. It’s regressive.


But according to a study by Demos, if retailers, not just Walmart, raised all hourly wages to at least $12.50 an hour, it would be a “private sector, retail-led stimulus.” As the study explains, the cost burden of raising the worker wages would be roughly 15 cents more per shopping trip.

“Is it necessary to have low wages in order to have low prices?” Demos’ Heather McGhee asked rhetorically on Up last week. Her answer: no.

Can Walmart keep its 'always low prices' and pay workers fairly?

Updated