Wal-Mart: The Living Wage
(7 pages of text)
Case (Pub Mat)
By 2017, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Wal-Mart) had shaped purchasing power for more than a million U.S. workers. Wal-Mart’s economic muscle was so profound that one could assume that the corporation’s wage policies had had a significant impact on the struggle for a living wage in the United States—but did this assumption have any merit? Wal-Mart had set the benchmark for low-cost retail labour practices. Understanding how Wal-Mart set the agenda with wages invited the investigation of a few pertinent questions: What socio-economic forces were in play and what was the environmental context that shaped Wal-Mart’s approach to managing its labour force? What were Wal-Mart’s wage-related practices, and how did the hourly rate paid to workers by the corporation affect prevailing wage rates? Finally, what were the benefits for Wal-Mart if it pursued a progressive wage rate agenda related to a living wage, and what were the disadvantages if it did not?
The case is ideal for an undergraduate business program and can be used in courses such as principles of management, business ethics, organizational behaviour, and introduction to economics, or for any course with an ethics component. After studying this case, students should be able to do the following:
- Define the concept of a living wage and describe its origins.
- Explain the moral arguments supporting a living wage.
- Describe the economic arguments against paying higher wages.
- Discuss Wal-Mart’s espoused and enacted values regarding wage practices.
- Detail Wal-Mart’s ability to set wage practice standards in the retail industry.
United States, Large, 2017
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