Just one week after women’s advocacy group UltraViolet launched a grassroots campaign urging Target’s customers to switch to Wal-Mart, the retail giant has announced that it will be raising its minimum wage to $9/hour starting in April.
The retailer is the latest to make such an announcement. Last month after years of pressure, Wal-Mart announced that they would be raising the minimum wage in their stores to $10/hour by 2016. Target, however, resisted raising its wages for employees. Two short weeks ago, Target Chief Financial Officer John Mulligan had a completely different opinion about wage increases:
“Fixating on some single number, to us, an average number, is unimportant,” he said at a March 4 conference held by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “It’s about being competitive locally at a store level within a marketplace. That is important and we’re going to be competitive and we’re going to pay.” [Source]
Mulligan told investors that it raising wages for their employees was unreasonable and they “pay what we need to pay to get a great team.” The move also comes just weeks after the company announced 1,700 layoffs as part of an effort to save $2 billion. They then announced that they would spend the $2 billion they were saving by firing their employees on stock buybacks; a move that would make the company’s shareholders richer.
So, why is a company that clearly only cares about making its shareholders rich decide to suddenly raise wages?
The answer is simple: protests and activism works.
Like Wal-Mart, TJ Maxx, and Marshalls, Target is feeling the pressure of activists who have been calling out for fairer wages all across the country. Even President Obama agrees, saying that our current $7.25/hour minimum wage is unreasonable and must be raised. He has said, time and again, that no person, working 40 hours a week, should be forced to live in poverty.
While President Obama and Democrats have attempted several times to raise the minimum wage, Republicans have fought it every step of the way. Just last year, Republicans in the Senate used their much-loved filibuster to block a bill that would’ve raised the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
Sadly, they are perfectly content allowing American workers to suffer in poverty if it means that the greedy corporate CEOs they serve will become even richer, because as a wise man once said: Take any conservative position on a social or economic issue, boil away all the rhetoric and what you are left with is “I got mine, screw you”.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.