Why would the retail behemoth possibly be in favor the additional $2.85/hour? Because it could mean more spending money in the pockets of Walmart shoppers, a rep for the company explained to Bloomberg earlier today.
“That’s something we’re looking at,” explained the rep while maintaining that the company currently has a neutral view on the issue. “Whenever there’s debates, it’s not like we look once and make a decision. We look a few times from other angles.”
If Walmart did throw its weight behind the President’s proposal, it wouldn’t be the first time that Walmart backed a federal minimum wage hike. About 10 years ago, the retailer came out in support of a pay increase that eventually went into effect in 2007.
However, a pro-increase stance from Walmart would be in opposition to that of many other major retailers and the National Retail Foundation, which has said that the additional pay would result in fewer jobs for Americans.
The Walmart news comes on the heels of a Congressional Budget Office report that weighed the pros and cons of the possible wage increase. It could mean improved pay for more than 16 million Americans, but it could also result in the loss of upwards of 500,000 jobs.
But the Walmart rep says the math isn’t so cut and dry, and that consumer behavior isn’t always so predictable. He points to the retailer’s recent swing-and-miss on the issue of food stamps.
Walmart had predicted that cuts to that program in 2013 would have resulted in a sales bump for Walmart as shoppers looked for an affordable place to buy groceries, but that prediction didn’t pan out as expected.
Just last summer, Walmart successfully convinced Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray to veto a city law that would have increased wages for workers at D.C. Walmart stores (and other national big box retailers) to $12.50 an hour.
The rep says the difference between that failed legislation and the possible federal wage hike is that the D.C. law only applied to certain types and sizes of stores, while a general minimum wage increase would apply to workers everywhere, regardless of their employers.
Among large retailers, one of the few to openly support a wage increase is Costco, whose CEO Craig Jelinek said a year ago that “paying employees good wages makes good sense for business.”