Walmart workers are striking for better wages, and for good reason.
The largest U.S. employer pays an average of $8.81 an hour, placing workers well below the poverty line. The workers are asking for pay of $13 an hour, with better healthcare benefits.
But Walmart's wage increases wouldn't just help its 2.2 million employees: the whole American economy stands to benefit.
A recent study by Demos, a think tank, describes the immense power Walmart and other retailers have over the economy.
The study explores what would happen if Walmart and other low-wage retail employers raised their average salary to $25,000 from about $21,000 now.
The raise would bring an estimated 700,000 Americans out of poverty and bring 750,000 more further above the poverty line.
And as these Americans could exercise more power as consumers, about 100,000 jobs could be added to that sector.
This could help revive the waning middle class. Many of the former middle-class manufacturing employees fled to retail when they lost their jobs, and now work at wages below the poverty line.
It's a myth that paying workers more would cost consumers more, according to the study. If retailers passed half of the wage increases on to shoppers, it would average out at an additional 15 cents per trip.
If Walmart traded short-term earnings growth to invest in employees, it could set a precedent for more companies to follow suit. This would pump more money into the economy because Americans would have more money to spend.
Costco is a good example of a huge retailer that's managed to offer better wages and healthcare while still producing profits.
Walmart raising wages would encourage other retailers to follow suit. The result could be a much healthier American economy.
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