In the past few months, several of America’s largest companies have come to the conclusion that they deeply value their workers and want to publicly celebrate their love of labor. A sample:
Walmart, the largest employer in the United States, announced across-the-board raises in February. In a letter to “associates” (the term Walmart uses for its employees), chief executive Doug McMillon said the move was a recognition of hard work, pledging that “there will be no better place in retail to learn, grow, and build a career than Walmart.”
Starbucks announced raises and increased benefits for more than 100,000 workers. In a letter to “partners” (the term Starbucks uses for employees), Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz framed his decision in the context of the most recent violent shootings. "Trust, after all, must be earned one human connection at a time,” he wrote.
JPMorgan Chase said it was it was raising wages for its lowest-paid workers, such as bank tellers, by 18 percent. In the opening paragraph of an op-ed for the New York Times, Jamie Dimon, the bank's chief executive, said it was the bank's civic duty to help its lowest-paid employees to combat "wage stagnation, income inequality, a lack of quality education, [and] insufficient training and skills development." (For comparative purposes, JPMorgan Chase calls its employees “employees.”)
McDonald's, Target, and T.J. Maxx have made similar announcements in the last year.
For one multinational corporation to have a conversion moment on wages and benefits might be an insignificant anecdote. But all at once, this feels more like a movement. Chief executives aren’t just raising wages quietly, announcing the bumps in inconspicuous internal memos. They’re trumpeting the wage increases as feats of national integration and human dignity.