We all end up bearing the cost of “big-box retail’s refusal to pay a decent wage,” said Jordan Weissmann. Henry Ford famously paid his employees enough to buy the cars they built, but chains like Walmart and Best Buy pay so little—around $9 or $10 an hour—that their employees wind up “disproportionately reliant on safety-net programs like food stamps and Medicaid.” Just to clear $19,090, the federal poverty line for a family of three, you’d have to work at Best Buy “40 hours a week, every week of the year.” It doesn’t have to be that way. These retailers could choose to pay a living wage with minimal impact on their bottom lines and the prices their customers pay. If workers were paid $25,000 a year, with half the cost passed on to consumers, the average big-box shopper would pay just $17.73 extra a year. I think most customers “would gladly pay a bit more to know the person helping them find the detergent aisle doesn’t need help from the government to feed their child.” That may be the only way to break the “cycle of impoverishment” big-box stores have helped to create.
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