Just for the sake of stirring debate, here’s a defense of employee pay scales at Walmart
I’m not saying I agree with the conclusions in THIS PIECE (or in the comments that follow it), but I thought you might find it interesting:
Per store, Walmart makes around $1.4 million/year…
Walmart’s stores are staffed on average by about 300 people who make on average $12.67 or ~$25k/year if they work full-time and take two weeks of unpaid vacation. $1.4mn profit per store /300 workers = ~$4,500. So that’s how much surplus value Walmart is “extracting” from labor, if you don’t factor in anything else like retaining earnings, paying shareholders, investing in new stores/products, etc. That’s a lot of trouble to make a measly $1.4mn! The only way it makes sense (for shareholders) is if volume is HUGE. Which it is.
Anyway, $3k or so is the upper limit of how much more each worker could earn under the current business model. Say it’s the difference between $25k and $30k. That’s certainly not nothing, but it does not represent such a qualitative difference in standard of living that anyone would consider Walmart employees to be well-paid if they all got the full $4,500.
So what else could be done other to increase that $4,500/year? Walmart could claw back some of their producer surplus from consumers by raising prices and using the proceeds to raise wages, which would constitute a simple redistribution from customers to employees assuming no money taken by management/ownership and completely inelastic consumer demand. Both assumptions are pretty heroic in this case. That would basically just shuffle cash from some poor people (Walmart’s customers) to other poor people (Walmart’s employees). Or they could reduce margins even further, but 3% is already pretty thin. Or they could raise margins by paying their suppliers (e.g. poor Chinese workers) even less, and give the extra profits to their American workers. They could redistribute salaries from management — their CEO makes $20 million to manage a company with $450 billion in revenues — but Walmart employs over 2 million people… we’re talking 10 bucks per worker per year if the CEO was paid nothing at all.
So any redistributionary choice that would fundamentally change the situation would seem to involve deciding which group of poor people are made worse off: Walmart’s customers, its employees, or its suppliers. The political equilibrium right now is a mix of employees and suppliers. Changing policy — say, by raising the minimum wage — involves changing two of those variables: one goes up, one goes down. There’s just not enough cash which can be taken from management to make all that much of a difference on a per worker basis, even if you reduced managements’ salaries to $0 and retained no profits for future investments or any other purpose. And per-worker profit is so low that there’s a pretty firm limit on how much more they can be paid.