Wal-Mart employs over 1.5 million people in the United States and is the largest American importer of Chinese goods. We dive into Worldview’s deep archives to bring you a tape from 2005, when we talked to labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein from the University of California, Santa Barbara about the power that the company has to shape policies like employment, minimum wage laws, health care and benefits for a huge chunk of the U.S. population. Since we spoke to Nelson, the federal minimum wage was raised from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour in 2009, where it’s remained ever since. After the Trump administration passed its landmark tax bill last year, Wal-Mart raised its minimum wage to 11 dollars an hour. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about the same Wal-Mart paid its employees when this interview aired.
The passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 meant that Wal-Mart had to insure more of its employees, but the number of part-time employees with limited benefits has risen. Wal-Mart is also now negotiating directly with healthcare providers and insurers to reduce their costs. Like in 2005, Wal-Mart is still the single biggest importer from China to the U.S. Between now and the Fall, we’ll be bringing you more stories like this from Worldview’s 25-year run.
Special thanks to the WBEZ Archives Team for cataloging 25 years of Worldview and making this segment possible.