Thursday, September 5, 2013

Good-paying jobs, or just jobs?

Walmart workers are free to seek higher wages. They can protest as much as they want. That’s the great thing about America.

Non-union-led work stoppages designed as protests have been reported across the nation at stores owned by the nation’s largest employer. A group called Making Change at Walmart is leading the charge for minimum pay levels of $25,000 annually for Walmart workers. That’s $12 an hour. The group claims the average Walmart wage is $8.81 per hour.

Now if a person doesn’t want to work for that low a wage, he or she can seek a job that pays a higher amount. That, too, is the American way.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the average hourly pay for a nongovernment, non-supervisory worker, adjusted for price increases, declined to $8.77 last month from $8.85 at the end of the recession in June 2009, according to Labor Department data.

 So Walmart is actually ahead of the game.

And in case you haven’t noticed, it’s not like the employment rate in this country is roaring. The federal unemployment rate for July was 7.4 percent, a historic high for a "recovery" that is this far along.

The push for higher wage jobs is nothing new. The Walmart activists say the company made $16 billion last year and, presumably, the wealth isn’t being shared, according to them. But it is probably being shared with stockholders, without whom there wouldn’t be much of a company. This stock resides in portfolios that, among other things, are funding people’s retirements. So let’s not belittle the stockholders. They are as apt to be on fixed, low incomes as anyone.

What if there were more higher paying jobs at Walmart, but the total number of jobs was fewer? Customers might not be happy if the result is longer waits in longer lines.

And more people would be out of work. So it gets down to a question of, if we have a choice, do we want higher paying jobs or just more jobs? Glib answers serve no one’s purpose. Just to say we’re sure Walmart can afford to pay higher wages may not be borne out by actual facts.

As the late New York Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan once said: "You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts."


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