Two weeks ago, Mendy Hughes spent $ 4 on her small bank account to take a family dinner at McDonald's on her day off as finance manager at Walmart, the largest store in the country. After 12 years with the company, Hughes made $ 12.85 an hour as a full-time employee, leaving about $ 200 every two weeks after the monthly rent and utility bills and food for her and her three children.
"Food - stressful," said Hughes, 47, of Malvern, Arkansas. “I think about it all day long: 'What will I buy when I get off work? What will I get out of it? '
All day long I think: ‘What will I buy when I leave work that I can’t afford? What will I gain? ’It’s just hard.
With inflation rising sharply as a result of the pandemic driven by inflation, Hughes found that his grocery budget had dropped to zero, leaving fast food as the only affordable way of life. Cost per kilogram of beef, for example, increased by about 19 percent nationwide from January to October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS. But Hughes' last promotion was last year, when Walmart raised his hourly wage by $ 1, an average of 8 percent. Walmart's new wage increase, introduced in September, has put him at 85 cents above the company's average salary.
"It's worse now because things have gone up so much," Hughes said. "I can't even buy a groceries."
Walmart declined to comment on specific salaries. In September, the company increased its initial salary to between $ 12 and $ 17 per hour, depending on the market, and could rise to $ 34 for people with special roles, such as a store baker. The average hourly wage on the company is now $ 16.40, the company said in a statement at the time.
In the 12 months to October, consumer prices increased by 6.2 percent, according to the BLS. But according to the department's latest figures, wages have risen only 4.2 percent in the 12 months ending September.
The gap between wage growth and rising prices does not mean that all consumers feel the impact of high prices on their wallets - low-wage workers feel a lot worse. In May last year, the average hourly wage for sales personnel was $ 13.02 per hour, or about $ 27,172 the full-time annual salary, while computer and IT staff received an average annual salary of $ 151,150, according to the latest data from BLS.
"The important thing in the [tourism and retail] industries is that real wages are not in line with inflation and these jobs are not in line with water," said Nela Richardson, an economist at ADP. “As you make a lot of money, inflation is slowly taking over your budget. But if you have a low income, inflation is a big factor in your overall income. ”
If you are earning a low income, inflation is an important factor in your overall income.
The epidemic has highlighted the economic divide between people who can work and those who cannot. Those who are unable to work from home - sales staff, bus drivers, service delivery staff - are more likely to catch coronavirus and are less likely to have savings or support benefits when they become ill, and are more likely to lose income, according to a September report from a government advisory team. to the secretary of health and human resources. According to data collected by United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, 198 of the 835,000 grocery workers were killed by Covid-19 and at least 43,900 were infected or exposed from March 2020 to August 2021.
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At the time, the retail industry had a record year of sales as people stayed home to avoid the virus. Traditionally the industry is growing at 1 to 2 percent a year, according to management company McKinsey and Co. But the North American grocery industry grew by 12 percent last year. Kroger had $ 135 billion in sales last year, up 10.6 percent from $ 122 billion in 2019, according to the company. Costco sales grew by 9 percent last year, to about $ 163 billion, up from $ 149 billion last year. Walmart food sales grew by $ 3.6 billion in the third quarter of this year alone, strong quarterly growth in six quarters, a Walmart chief financial officer told investors on a lead call last week.
Bianca Agustin, executive accountant of the non-profit organization United for Respect, said in an email that the rise in wage costs was "an urgent reminder for Congress to raise the union's salary to at least $ 15." ”
"This is a small measure of ensuring that key workers and working families are involved in economic recovery," he said.
There has been a wave of calls to raise the organisation's minimum wage as a worrying epidemic has thrown shopkeepers like Hughes on the front lines of the virus and fueled political hatred in security measures such as masks. In response to the increased risk of contracting the virus, some retailers temporarily improve their sick leave benefits and pay risky sums to workers who previously worked for a few months in the epidemic last year. However, in June, Albertsons, Kroger and Fred Meyer were among the buyers who ended their bonus payments by working with the epidemic.