Walmart CEO Says Wage Hike Should Consider Regional Economics

Walmart Inc. Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon said the U.S. needs to confront its health and economic crises -- but added he doesn’t support a universal $15 minimum wage.

President-elect Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour from the current level of $7.25, which is “too low,” McMillon said during a media briefing with Business Roundtable CEO Josh Bolten. But instead of setting a uniform nationwide level, McMillon called for a higher wage that takes into account “geographic differences” and “small business.” Congress should find the “right pace” for wage increases, said McMillon, who is serving as chairman of Business Roundtable.

Walmart CEO Says Wage Hike Should Consider Regional Economics

As the world’s largest retailer and an employer of 1.5 million workers in the U.S. alone, Walmart’s CEO is closely watched in the retail world and beyond when it comes to labor practices and corporate decision-making. The company has increased its minimum wage in recent years amid criticism from labor activists, but it remains short of the $15 threshold and still lags that of competitors such as Target Corp. and Amazon.com Inc.

The wage proposal is likely to see resistance from Republicans and business groups that argue the increase will pressure bottom lines just as the latest Covid-19 surge hinders economic recovery.

While Bolten said the Business Roundtable, which is a lobbying group for top U.S. business leaders, is “very supportive” of the rescue package, he said there are concerns about the wage provision. Some elements of the package should be ditched rather than negotiated if they could cause a delay in approval, he said.

McMillon said he doesn’t expect employers to mandate vaccines as they become available to broader swaths of the population unless the government requires. Some companies, such as Dollar General Corp., have announced they’ll offer extra pay to workers to encourage them to get vaccinated, without making the measure obligatory.

“I think our role is to encourage it and to communicate facts and to set an example and hopefully have a very high take rate,” McMillon said in reference to the vaccine. “But I don’t think very many companies will take the step of mandating.”

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