BIG BOXES, SMALL PAYCHECKS:
How the Retail Lobby Blocks Increases in the Minimum Wage
There are more than 15 million workers in retail stores in the U.S.,
so it is not surprising that the industry spends a lot of money to keep wages down. The National Retail Federation (NRF) and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) have been waging fierce lobbying campaigns to prevent increases in the minimum wage. These two associations spent almost $10 million on DC lobbyists in 2012 alone.
These associations are also extremely powerful at the state level, working in conjunction with local lobbying groups to deceive the public about the impact of raising the minimum wage. The retail trade associations portray their members as small mom and pop businesses because this plays well politically and gives politicians cover. In reality, some of the biggest corporations in the country are the most influential members of the associations. For instance, the Minnesota Retailers Association includes over 200 companies, but Target is by far the largest source of funds. Target executives have made two-thirds of all contributions to the Association’s PAC since 2000.
Brands like Target and Walmart spend millions on advertising to make their brands household names, but when it comes to things like keeping workers in poverty, they prefer to hide behind their lobby associations. Both Target and Walmart say they have not taken a position on increasing the minimum wage,
but their political contributions and leadership in industry trade associations make it clear that the two largest retailers oppose raising the minimum wage. The recent strikes at Walmart and by janitors who clean Target and other big box stores have pierced the veil of these two associations and exposed the poverty wages the retail industry pays its workers. The average hourly wage of a Wal-Mart sales associate is just $8.86 and for a cashier it’s $8.51. The average pay for cashiers at Target is $8.10/hour, while the pay for sales floor
team members is only slightly higher -- $8.34/hour.
A full-time worker at these wages earns less than $18,500 – well below
the poverty line and not nearly enough to provide food, housing, health care,
transportation and other basic needs for their families.
However, over half
of the workers in these positions at Target and Wal-Mart don’t even earn
this much because they are involuntarily part-time.
The situation is not much different at other retail stores. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical retail sales person earns just $10.29 per hour.
Cashiers earn even less – an average hourly wage of $9.12.