retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times reports that the National Retail Federation (NRF) has issued a report saying that a higher minimum wage "would simply eat away at many retailers’ bottom lines, and ultimately threaten retail jobs … the group said that retailers in fact offered jobs to millions of younger, inexperienced workers, as well as workers like teenagers and college students looking for scheduling flexibility, which was behind the concentration of low-wage jobs in the industry.

"The federation argued that retail workers earn above-average pay if temporary workers, including those hired for holiday sales, are excluded. Retail workers ages 25 to 54 who work full time for at least three consecutive months make an average of $38,376 a year, slightly more than full-time workers in nonretail jobs, the group said."

“Now is not the right time to be mandating a minimum-wage increase,” NRF's president, Matthew R. Shay, said in a briefing. “We’d rather much be focusing on what do we need to be doing to stimulate growth.”

Meanwhile, the Times writes, "On Thursday, organizers of a group called Our Walmart took to the streets in New York, Washington and Phoenix to draw attention to their campaign to change labor practices in retailing and other low-wage industries like fast-food restaurants. By not paying their workers a living wage, the activists say, such businesses squeeze the very people they hope to sell to … Fourteen Walmart employees and 12 others were arrested and charged with civil disobedience Thursday."

This came as Walmart CEO Doug McMillon told reporters this week that the company wants to address the compensation issue: "We only have a few thousand associates in the U.S., less than 6,000 of our 1.3 million associates in the U.S., that currently make a minimum wage and it is our intention over time that we will be in a situation where we don't pay minimum wage at all."
KC's View:
I am sympathetic to the argument that a higher minimum wage could lead to fewer jobs … but the fact remains that there are a lot of people out there who work very hard for a lot of hours, but because of their circumstances, they don't make enough to support themselves and their families. And I worry that we're creating a kind of underclass in America, and I'm not sure that the current situation is culturally sustainable. (I'm okay with a different minimum wage for students working part-time than for adults trying to support themselves, by the way.)

Besides, wasn't it just yesterday that The Container Store's Kip Tindell said that as the incoming NRF chairman, he was going to try to change NRF's thinking on this issue?