Why We Should All Care About the Walmart Strikers | The Nation

Posted on: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 10:13 By: Tom Swiss

I recently posted about the first ever strike against Walmart, and how international worker solidarity got it moving. The strike has now spread to stores in Texas and Maryland. At her blog at The Nation, Bryce Covert reports on the strike's spread, and Why We Should All Care About the Walmart Strikers:

Walmart says the average hourly wage for its full-time workers across the country is $12.40, but an IBISWorld report put that figure at $8.81, barely above the minimum wage. And studies have shown that Walmart workers are more likely than others in the industry to rely on government benefits. In California, for instance, where the strike started, employees’ families use 40 percent more publicly funded healthcare and 38 percent more public assistance programs than the average employee at a large retail company. Walmart, for its part, has told Eidelson that the company “has some of the best jobs in the retail industry—good pay, affordable benefits and the chance for advancement.”

Yet these are clearly low-wage jobs, particularly if the pay is so little that many families turn to other sources to get them through. This category of work is the fastest growing post-recession. In a recent report, the National Employment Law Project classified jobs that pay a median hourly wage of $7.69 to $13.83—easily Walmart territory, no matter whose average wage figure you listen to—as low-wage jobs. The report found that it’s these very jobs that are seeing the most robust rebound: they grew nearly three times as fast as mid-wage and high-wage work. The low-wage occupation with the highest growth was, you guessed it, retail.