WASHINGTON- If Walmart were to pay its employees a minimum of $12 an hour, what would that wage baseline do to the retail behemoth’s famously low prices? According to a new study, probably not much.
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education argue that such a wage bump for the retailer’s lower-paid associates would translate into an extra cost to shoppers of about 46 cents per trip, or $12.49 a year, if the brunt of the increase was passed on to consumers. The study’s lead author, Ken Jacobs, claims that the findings support the idea of a “big box” wage ordinance that would set a minimum wage for large American retailers like Walmart who are entering urban areas. Such an ordinance failed to make it into law in Chicago a few years ago.
“It wouldn’t affect the competitiveness of their prices, but the benefits could be substantial on the worker side,” said Jacobs, who chairs UC Berkeley’s labor center. “There’s this assumption that if Walmart was to improve its wages and benefits they couldn’t exist as they do. But most of what they do to bring down prices is based on the supply chain. Labor is only one part of that picture.”