Walmart is thinking about supporting an increase to the minimum wage, according to Bloomberg. Yes, really. The nation's largest private retailer is wondering whether a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour will make it more money (because its customers will have more money to spend on rollback items) or less money (because it will have to pay its employees more).
But this isn't exactly corporate generosity, not that you thought it was. When Americans get hit, so do corporations like Walmart, which depend on the customers making minimum wage. When unemployment benefits were not extended at the end of last year, the company took a hit. When the temporary extension of the payroll tax cut ended the year before, the company took another hit.
And as The Washington Post points out, Walmart also knows it can take the hit of a wage increase better than its competitors. So when Walmart fought D.C. on its $12.50 an hour minimum wage for mega stores, there was a competitive disadvantage there. In 2005, Walmart's chief executive actually said, "It's obviously time to raise the minimum wage. I'm a big advocate of it," when the wage was $5.15 an hour. Two years later it was raised to the current level.
This time around, however, Walmart isn't quite as gung-ho. A spokesman told Bloomberg, “that’s something we’re looking at. Whenever there’s debates, it’s not like we look once and make a decision. We look a few times from other angles." That's one step above "we don't not support the minimum wage." But this might all be part of the company's effort to not seem like an evil corporation. Last month Walmart promised to make scheduling more transparent for part-time workers and to buy more American products. Its food drive for struggling employees could also be seen an attempt to seem caring.
But if "looking" at the minimum wage is a PR tactic, Walmart is going to have to up its game — Gap announced that it is definitely raising its minimum wage to $10 an hour by June 2015.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.