Amazon, Walmart, McDonald’s, and other retail giants are boosting wages to hire hourly employees, but some labor advocates say a livable wage is still far off for most workers

Tatyana Makeyeva/Reuters

Companies like Amazon, Walmart, and McDonald’s are in the middle of a big hiring push.
In a tight labor market, retail workers are advocating for a livable wage.
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Major companies are dangling higher pay and perks to entice prospective workers in a tight job market.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon, Walmart, McDonald’s, and Chipotle are pulling out all the stops to attract thousands of new workers, including raising pay, touting signing bonuses, and offering educational perks. This comes after the most recent Labor Department report, which saw jobless claims drop to a pandemic-low of 473,000. Wages on the whole are projected to rise, according to a new working paper on voluntary, employer-led minimum wages.
And large corporations are looking to hire thousands of employees, despite the competition over hourly workers. Amazon is offering $17 starting pay and $1,000 signing bonuses. McDonald’s is shifting its minimum wage to between $11 and $17 an hour. Walmart recently boosted pay for 425,000 frontline workers.
But many labor activists and workers say that the changes aren’t enough. Amazon has attracted criticism over its handling of a union vote at an Alabama warehouse. Walmart’s starting hourly salary remains $11. The raises at McDonald’s only affect workers at corporate-owned restaurants, which account for 5% of the chain’s locations.
Retail workers around the country have begun leaving the industry over low pay, toxic work environments, or unsafe COVID-19-related conditions. In some areas, unemployment benefits provide more support that low-paying jobs with uncertain hours. It’s gotten to the point where some restaurants and shops have struggled to attract much interest in open positions. Taco Bell is throwing "hiring parties" in its restaurants. One Florida McDonald’s began offering prospective employees $50 to just come in for a job interview.
Gail Rogers, a McDonald’s franchise employee in Tampa currently making around $9.40 an hour, is one such employee. The 61-year-old said that she is not making a livable wage at the moment. McDonald’s workers in 15 cities currently plan to strike on May 19.
"I’m living from one paycheck to another," she said. "McDonald’s is not supporting us. They are not trying to give us $15 an hour. They could do this tomorrow, no problem. What is the hold up for them not to treat their employees fairly?"
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