Walmart joins companies responding to GOP tax cuts (video)

BY JILL CUENI-COHEN / JANUARY 11, 2018 /

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In response to the GOP’s newly passed tax reform bill, Walmart announced on Friday that its U.S. workers will be getting a raise in their minimum hourly wage to $11, and some can expect to receive bonuses of up to $1,000.

The country’s largest private employer has been experiencing a hot streak during the past year, and now has more than 1 million U.S. hourly employees. Thanks to the tax cuts, the retail giant will reap a windfall from the U.S. corporate tax rate cut from 35% to 21%, and employees will benefit.

The move also comes amid a 17-year low for the U.S. unemployment rate, which has intensified competition for workers, noted a report in USA Today that was published on Friday.

“Today, we are building on investments we’ve been making in associates, in their wages and skills development,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in a statement. “It’s our people who make the difference and we appreciate how they work hard to make every day easier for busy families.”

McMillon added that Trump’s corporate tax cut “gives us the opportunity to be more competitive globally and to accelerate plans for the U.S.”

Walmart is just one of several major corporations that has credited the tax cut with bolstering their businesses and passed part of the windfall on to their employees. For instance, AT&T and Comcast doled out one-time bonuses of $1,000 to non-management workers, while Wells Fargo and Fifth Third Bancorp boosted base hourly pay to $15.

Critics of tax reform have said companies are dishing out bonuses for the sake of good publicity and to curry favor with the White House.

“Wal-Mart would have had to go to at least $11 in many markets in order to retain reliable employees,” commented University of Michigan business professor Erik Gordon in the USA Today story. “The tax cut made it easier for the company to swallow.”

However, he did note that the move indicates that “the corporate tax cut’s touted trickle-down effects that were met with skepticism by critics may be happening.”

Charles Fishman, author of The Wal-Mart Effect, pointed out that the company has “started to change the way they treat employees because they can’t take them for granted anymore.”

Walmart’s wage increase will take effect in February, according to the company, which noted that the one-time bonuses would total $400 million and will be based on length of service. Employees who have worked for at least 20 years will get the full $1,000, while most will receive up to a few hundred dollars.

The company will also shore up its paid maternity leave policy for full-time hourly workers to 10 weeks at full pay. New fathers and non-birthing mothers will enjoy up to six weeks at full pay for full-time hourly workers. Previously, the company didn’t offer any paid leave for them.

In addition, full-time hourly and salaried employees who are seeking to adopt children will get financial aid from the company.