Wal-Mart Stores said Wednesday (April 1) that 16,257 of its employees in Arkansas will receive a pay raise beginning with the April 4 pay period. The increase, part of the $1 billion pay and benefit raise the company announced Feb. 19, ensures that all employee pay is at least $9 per hour.
CEO Doug McMillon said in the February announcement that pay would rise to $9 an hour in April and $10 an hour by February 2016. Wal-Mart spokesman Scott Markley said approximately 500,000 U.S. employees will receive raises beginning with the April pay period.
Wal-Mart is also raising the average pay of department managers to $13 per hour and up to $15 by the following year. The plan includes providing workers more opportunities for training flexibility over their own schedules.
The information shared Wednesday by Wal-Mart noted that Arkansas employees will earn at least $1.75 above the federal minimum wage and $1.50 above Arkansas’ minimum wage. Federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Arkansas’ minimum is $7.50, but will be $8 in Jan. 1, 2016, and rise to $8.50 on Jan. 1, 2017.
And according to Wal-Mart, the average hourly wage for a full-time company employee in Arkansas is $12.28, or a little more than $25,500 annualized. Arkansas’ mean annual wage as of 2013 was $37,340. Arkansas’ median household income in 2013 was $40,768.
“Starting wages are just one part of Walmart’s commitment to providing associates with clearer career opportunities,” the company noted in the statement. “Through its Opportunity initiative, Walmart is opening doors for existing and new associates by providing increased scheduling flexibility and control, and new training opportunities for continued growth and advancement beyond entry-level jobs.”
Critics have said Wal-Mart is moving ahead of a national trend toward a higher minimum wage. OUR Walmart, a labor funded group that pushes for better pay and benefits, has said Wal-Mart should move to a $15 an hour minimum wage.
Claire McKenna, of the National Employment Law Project, said Wal-Mart and other retailers raising wages to $10 per hour is antiquated given that many states and cities are already mandating higher minimum wages. McKenna said Costco’s base pay of $12 per hour and Ikea’s starting $11 wage are already setting higher standards than Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer.