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Robert Reich

Wal-Mart is a jobs creator, but not the right kind

Wal-Mart touts itself as a major jobs creator for the US. That may be true, but offering lousy jobs on such an extraordinary scale is not something to brag about.

By Guest blogger / August 30, 2013

This July 12, 2013, photo, shows a Wal-Mart, in Bristol, Pa. Wal-Mart is the biggest employer in the US.

Matt Rourke/AP/File

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Yesterday a Walmart spokesman criticized the petition I’ve been circulating that asks Walmart (and McDonalds) to pay their employees at least $15 an hour.

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Robert is chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Clinton. Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written 13 books, including “The Work of Nations,” his latest best-seller “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future," and a new e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” His new movie, "Inequality for All," is available on Netflix. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.

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Walmart’s spokesman told the Huffington Post that my petition fails to mention that Walmart is a major job creator and that it promotes some of its employees.

The spokesman is correct. In fact, Walmart is America’s biggest employer. And I’d be shocked if some of its employees weren’t promoted.

But the brute fact is Walmart’s typical employee is still paid less than $9 an hour.

To offer lousy jobs on such an extraordinary scale is not something to brag about. Indeed, the point of the petition — as well as the national movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour — is to recognize that most people who work for big-box retailers like Walmart, as well as those who work in the fast-food industry, are adults. They are responsible for bringing home a significant share of their family’s income. A decent society requires they be paid enough to lift them and their families out of poverty.
 
 When Martin Luther King, Jr., led the March to Washington for Jobs and Justice, fifty years ago this week, one of the objectives of that March was to raise the minimum wage to $2 an hour. $2 an hour in 1963, adjusted for inflation, comes to over $15 an hour in today’s dollars. Walmart doesn’t come close to the American dream.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. This post originally ran on www.robertreich.org.

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