The move, taking minimum pay up from the current $10 an hour after in-house training, is created to help the retailer attract workers at a time when the US unemployment rate is at 4.1 percent, a 17-year low, making it harder to attract and retain minimum wage employees.
Policymakers are divided on how much of this largesse is due to the tax cuts, and how much can be attributed to a tightening labor market and low unemployment rate.
Other policy changes Walmart announced Thursday - particularly an expanded parental and maternity leave policy - could further help the retailer attract and retain better workers.
The one-time bonuses will range from $200 to $1,000, depending on how long workers have been with Wal-Mart.
Walmart's tit-for-tat minimum wage battle with Target, ratcheting to $11 an hour for the least experienced workers with likely pressure to move higher, may signal broader gains to come for workers in a tightening US labor market - a moment politicians and policymakers have been hoping for.
In addition to the starting pay bump and bonuses, Walmart also announced it was creating a new benefit to assist employees with adoption expenses. Walmart expects its largesse will cost $700 million, but framed it as a way for employees to "share in tax savings" from the tax overhaul that was signed into law in December.
Wal-Mart's wage hike follows one by Target (TGT), which increased its minimum wage to $11 an hour starting last October. A full-time salary of $11 an hour amounts to about $19,000 a year, which is below the national poverty level of $20,420 for a family of three. Workers with at least 20 years qualify for a $1,000 bonus.
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Overall, the value of bonuses will be $400 million, but McMillion did not go into specific detail on how the fund would be doled out to the rest of the workers. "While pay raises are usually a good thing, this is nothing but another public relations stunt from Walmart to distract from the reality that they are laying off thousands of workers and the ones who remain will continue to receive low wages".
Walmart has invested $2.7 billion in higher wages and training for workers to lower turnover and make the shopping experience more appealing.
Walmart is also expanding its parental and maternity policy, offering full-time hourly workers with 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of paid paternity leave. That benefit will also go to parents who adopt.
"A better solution would be to raise the federal minimum wage and not leave it up to corporations", Gould said. Also, CEO C Douglas Mcmillon sold 75,063 shares of the company's stock in a transaction dated Monday, November 21st.