Maine labor advocates are applauding the news that Walmart plans to increase wages for some of its lowest-earning employees. Starting in April, the company says it will increase its minimum pay to $9 per hour. In a year, the rate will increase to $10 per hour.
"This is very positive news," says Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the AFL-CIO in Maine. He says the wage hike is a good first step, but more needs to follow.
"Walmart has a long long long way to go," he says. "They need to raise their wages to living wages — family sustaining wages — they need to have fairer scheduling practices, they need to stop shifting costs on to the public, but this is absolutely a very positive step."
For years, Walmart, along with other major businesses, has been the target of protests in Maine and elsewhere, with picketers suggesting wages of $15 per hour.
The wage hike will affect about 500,000 workers at the store nationwide, more than a third of its workforce.
Walmart is the nation's largest private employer with about 1.3 million people on the payroll.