In the Spotlight
Walmart has been in the news recently after a store in Canton, OH was found to be running a food drive for needy employees
. As of 2010, the giant retailer employed fully 1% of working Americans, and has become known for failing to pay wages sufficient to allow even its full time employees to avoid taking government benefits. The US House Committee on Education and the Workforce
has found that a single Walmart store can cost taxpayers between $904,000 and $1,744,000 a year in government benefits paid to its many employees.
However, Walmart continues to bring in significant profit every year, and could in fact afford to raise employee salaries without raising prices, according to a report from Dēmos
. Employees are currently planning to strike on Black Friday
in protest of, among other things, their low wages.
Walmart is just one of many major employers paying its full-time employees poverty-level wages. This fall has seen major strikes by fast food workers
in cities across American for a $15 hourly wage. The current median hourly wage for fast food workers is $8.94, at which many workers have to hold down multiple full-time jobs just to survive. That it is now possible to have a full-time job and be unable to support oneself on it, let alone one’s family, should raise significant questions about the employment landscape in the US. Should we be considering proposals for a minimum income, like that recently floated in Switzerland
Direct Service Implications
It is important for service providers to remember the impact the job market can have on our clients, especially for those that are struggling to make ends meet. Surviving on a salary based on minimum wage keeps many living at or below the federal poverty level
. Acknowledging these difficulties and giving clients a safe space to express this frustration is what service providers do on a daily basis. Continuing to offer this support is imperative in continuing to help clients attain their goals.
Other ways providers can be of support is by sharing with clients the various agencies, community based organizations and campaigns taking place around the country addressing the living wage and advocating for an increase in minimum wage. Providers can organize to testify alongside clients at public hearings exploring and advocating for the increase of the minimum wage. Providers can also encourage their organizations to advocate for a living wageand make it a priority for the betterment of the communities being served. Through community organizing and political advocacy, providers can continue to support their clients.
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