Political activist Ralph Nader says Walmart’s decision to increase minimum wage to $10 by 2016 is a mini-victory for the labor movement but until a 40-hour work week is mandatory, workers will continue to be underpaid
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. So you may have heard the news that Walmart will be raising its minimum wage to $10 an hour by the end of 2016. Now joining us to discuss how this will potentially affect workers is our guest, Ralph Nader. He is a renowned political activist, attorney, auto safety reformer, and consumer advocate. Thanks for joining us, Ralph. RALPH NADER, FOUNDER, CTR. FOR STUDY OF RESPONSIVE LAW: Thank you, Jessica. DESVARIEUX: So, Ralph, what is your take on this? It sounds like good news for workers that Walmart will be raising its minimum wage to $10. What’s your take? NADER: Well, we’ve been pressing Walmart with meetings and picketing Walmart and sending public letters to Walmart CEO for a number of years to at least give its workers the wage that Walmart workers had to be paid under federal law in 1968, adjusted for inflation in terms of purchasing power. That would be now $11 an hour. So Walmart announces last week that it’s going to increase its minimum wage to $9 next month, in April, or two months now, in April, and then a year later to $10. So what do I say? It’s better than doing nothing. But it’s still less than Walmart workers had got in 1968, in terms of purchasing power, even though Walmart’s worker productivity’s doubled since then because of Walmart’s automation and streamlining. So we have to point out that the federal minimum wage is still seven and a quarter stuck in the mud, and there are states and cities who’ve gone to nine, ten. Seattle is now considering $15 an hour in three years. San Francisco is up over $10 an hour. So I think Walmart read the tea leaves and said, hey, we’d better get ahead of some of these state and federal laws, even though we’ve got Washington in a lockdown. There are 30 million workers in this country who make less today than 1968 workers, adjusted for inflation, and that’s a lot of workers. They clean up after us. They service our food. They grow our food. They help our elderly. They do real hard work. And they’re not even paid as much as the same workers in 1968. So this could be a big issue in the 2016 election. There is overwhelming popular support for a restoration of the minimum wage. Even Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Phyllis Schlafly, Bill O’Reilly, and the conservative entrepreneur Ron Unz, have come out for a higher minimum wage because the right-wing thinks, if people are paid more, there’ll be less burden on public assistance programs paid by the taxpayer like food stamps and housing assistance. So it’s a left-right issue, as my new book has pointed out, Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State. So we’re making progress. But until Congress turns around and restores the minimum wage to at least $11 an hour, which is what it was, inflation-adjusted, in 1968, we’ve got a lot more work to do. People should know that the head of Walmart’s making $11,000 an hour eight hours a day, plus luxurious benefits. Just think of that. In three hours on January 2, he makes more than most Walmart workers make in a year. Now, the big complaint by Walmart workers today is they can’t get full-time work with Walmart. They’re making 20 hours, 28 hours. That’s not enough to feed their families. And so, if you ask Walmart workers about Walmart’s announcement, they say, okay, it’s better than what it was, but we need 40 hours a week. DESVARIEUX: And the way that you’re going to get 40 hours a week, does that mean that at the end of the day you have to unionize? NADER: Yeah. And Walmart is very expert at busting up union efforts store by store. The unions haven’t been all that great in terms of throwing resources on it, except a little bit with SEIU. But I think the day is coming when companies like Costco, which two years ago started their workers at $11.50 an hour plus benefits, the day is coming when Walmart’s recognition that it has too much employee turnover (that’s expensive), poor motivation by Walmart employees (that’s expensive), that it’s better to pay them at least what Sam Walton had to pay under federal minimum wage law in 1968. DESVARIEUX: Alright. Ralph Nader, joining us from Washington, D.C., thank you so much for being with us. NADER: Jessica, thank you. Our website, if people want to join the movement, is TimeForARaise.org. We’ll win this one. DESVARIEUX: Alright, Ralph. Thank you. And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network. You’re welcome, Jessica.
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