Walmart, the largest private sector employer in the U.S., just announced comprehensive changes to its hiring, training, compensation, and scheduling programs which will open up opportunities for its employees. Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, N.J., are leading this dialogue and CBIS is among the participants. CBIS has engaged Walmart since 2003, and this represents a significant milestone in the active efforts to move Walmart to change. The company announced the following details:
- Walmart will raise the pay of all current associates to at least $9/hour by April, which is $1.75 more than the current federal minimum wage, and provide an increase to associates currently at the maximum pay level – approximately 500k associates will receive an additional raise in the first half of 2015
- There will be greater access to healthcare, retirement benefits, bonuses and discounts and in some instances, more flexible scheduling
- More education and training opportunities will be provided
- Walmart has committed $100 million over five years to fund programs designed to create career paths for workers
CBIS is pleased with this latest announcement, but continues to reach for further progress with Walmart and other employers. “We commend the company for investing in its employees, which in turn can help them build a stronger business. More will need to be done structurally to make Walmart a better company to work for, but this is an important step in the right direction,” said Julie Tanner, Assistant Director, Catholic Responsible Investing at CBIS.
Walmart has been criticized for low wages and benefits, and said it is making these changes because it believes that the key to improving customer satisfaction is investing in staff. They estimate this will cost the company about $1 billion in the current fiscal year. Gap, Whole Foods, and Ikea raised wages for the lowest paid employees last year. “The ability of workers to succeed regardless of their gender, race, religion, or national origin is an important condition to maintaining respect and dignity for all workers,” Tanner stated. “CBIS will continue to engage Walmart on ways it is creating a culture that values and respects diversity and inclusion.”