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Wal-Mart suggests raising the minimum wage          Send a link to a friend

By Jim Youngquist

[NOV. 1, 2005]  I read an article Oct. 25 in one of the major online newspapers which said that embattled Wal-Mart recommended a number of changes to their board of directors recently to raise the standards and benefits for working Americans. Wal-Mart cited that many of their customers don't have enough money to buy necessities between paychecks. ["Wal-Mart calls for higher minimum wage"]

I found Wal-Mart's request to Congress and their observation about their customers to be very ironic, since the vast majority of Wal-Mart employees work for minimum wage.

The plight of the working poor will not be improved by raising the minimum wage. As soon as employment costs for businesses go up, prices will go up to support those costs. The working poor will remain in the same place, although technically they will be making more money.

I have heard of and read accounts of mining companies in the history of this country that owned everything: the mine, all the places to live and all the businesses that sold goods. Employees of the mine worked for low wages, lived in squalor in the company's shacks and could barely afford the goods at the company store. The mining company kept all the money, and the employees were the quintessential definition of the working poor.

Perhaps Wal-Mart has become the 21st-century's equivalent of the mining company. Wal-Mart comes to town and, over time, runs out all the other businesses that sell similar goods and pay living wages. The people who formerly worked in those now-defunct businesses are forced to work for Wal-Mart, which pays minimum wage. By their own assertion the employees of Wal-Mart cannot afford what they need to live between paychecks.

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My analysis of their request to Congress is that Wal-Mart's only concern is to make more money on the backs of their underpaid employees. Of course, they will pay their employees more, but only if Congress makes them.
Hey, Wal-Mart, if you want to make a real social statement and also improve your own bottom line, pay your own employees more -- pay all of them higher wages than what the minimum wage demands. I am very sure that those higher-paid employees will return a high percentage of their new buying power in Wal-Mart stores, and those who wish to organize Wal-Mart stores will be robbed of the power and opportunity to do so.
Step up and be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

[Jim Youngquist]

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