Love ’em, like ’em or hate ’em, there was welcome news among the ranks at Wal-Mart on Thursday, including those earning a paycheck in Columbus.
The mega-retailer, founded in Bentonville, Ark., back in 1962, dished out pay raises to workers across the country in order to get more of them in the $10-an-hour pay range. Those already at or above that level are getting a one-time lump sum “bonus” of 2 percent of their yearly pay.
In Georgia alone, the company said more than 50,000 “associates” were to receive the pay hike at its 211 Wal-Mart stores and Sam’s Club warehouses, with the increase going to those hired before Jan. 1. Those on the job after that date start at $9 an hour and could get the $1 raise after completing a new skills and training program.
Of course, like real estate, it’s all about location. And using the average per-store employee count, there are somewhere in the ballpark of 2,200 workers in the Columbus-Phenix City area at the moment, with more than 400 on the way. That includes the four supercenters already in the area, with another coming out of the ground this year off Victory Drive, a smaller discount store, and three neighborhood markets recently opened, with one more to go on Buena Vista Road.
The grand total with the coming store openings: About 2,600 local employees are potentially impacted by this pay increase, which is part of Wal-Mart’s two-year, $2.7 billion plan to improve pay and training. The company hopes the move will help it keep better-performing workers longer, thus improving a customer experience that has degraded in recent years with checkout lines that are too long and store shelves not always fully stocked.
While it’s easy for some Wal-Mart critics to argue that $10 an hour hardly qualifies as enough, it’s still a nice victory for workers desperately needing more money in their pockets to support themselves and their families.
The Columbus-area community also is a winner, with Wal-Mart workers here — after hopefully saving a bit of the extra cash — also spending more locally, thus benefiting businesses and the city’s sales tax digest.