For years, the vast majority of the American mainstream has endorsed raising the minimum wage. But with Republicans dominating Congress, proponents have had to look for ways around the GOP's unyielding opposition.
The White House, for example, used executive powers to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors. A variety of state and municipal governments have done the same, with some increases coming by way of ballot referenda.
In the private sector, meanwhile, congressional Republicans obviously can't stop major businesses from doing what lawmakers won't do. Gap Inc.
announced about a year ago that it would raise its minimum wage to $9 in 2014 -- and $10 this year – across all of its outlets and affiliated brands. A few months later, Ikea made a similar move
And this morning, Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon told CNBC
this morning that hundreds of thousands of its hourly staff are poised to get a raise of their own.
Wal-Mart said Thursday that hourly workers will earn at least $1.75 above the current federal minimum wage, or $9 per hour starting in April. By next February, they will earn at least $10 per hour.
Projections suggest this will translate to a pay raise for roughly 500,000 hourly employees.
The move doesn't apply to all Wal-Mart employees across the board -- hourly employees are roughly 40% of the company's workforce -- but given the size of the retail behemoth, this will nevertheless mean more money in the pockets of an enormous number of workers who need it.
The AP report fleshed out
the details of the company's plan, which includes:
* Start raising entry level wages to at least $9 an hour in April and to at least $10 an hour by February of next year. That includes the less than 3/4 workers who make the federal minimum wage. Sam's Club locations will offer a starting hourly wage of at least $9.50 or higher in all markets, and at least $10.50 by next year. * Raise the floor and ceiling of its pay range for each position in most stores. For example, the pay range for cashiers is $7.65 to $16. The new range will be $9.00 to $17.55. * Raise the starting wage for some department managers to at least $13 an hour by this summer and at least $15 an hour by early next year. * Give newly hired workers a $9 per hour training wage and when they successfully complete the six-month training program, raise it to $10 an hour. Those workers can pursue one of three career paths: hourly supervisor, a specialty path like working in a bakery or deli or expand their skills in their current role.
Remember, this is a done deal -- there's nothing congressional Republicans can do to stop these raises from taking effect.
Wal-Mart has traditionally opposed increases to the minimum wage, but as of today, the retailer finds itself to the left of Congress.