Walmart, the largest private employer in the U.S., will be forced to raise its wages thanks to new minimum wage hikes in 21 states that will take effect in the new year. Reuters reports that the retail giant is preparing to raise its base salary in about a third of its stores in the U.S. Currently, about 6,000 Walmart employees make $7.25 an hour.
According to Reuters, Walmart will change its pay structure in 1,434 stores to narrow the gap between low-paid workers and higher skilled positions. The company has also pledged to make more changes in 2015 to give workers more opportunity for advancement.
Walmart workers have been striking for years against the company’s notoriously poor treatment of employees. On Black Friday this year, thousands protested at 1,000 stores across the country, calling for a livable wage and more reliable working hours. Walmart keeps many employees on erratic part-time or temporary schedules to avoid giving them full benefits.
But even with base salaries adjusted to meet the new requirements, it won’t be enough for workers to survive. The Walmart strikes have called for a $15 an hour wage, which only a couple of cities have approved. Walmart’s home state, Arkansas, voted in November to raise its minimum wage to $8.50 — but the state’s low-wage workers told ThinkProgress that rate still leaves them in deep poverty.
Moreover, Walmart’s poverty wages have forced their workers onto public benefits like food stamps, costing taxpayers billions of dollars every year.