June 3, 2014
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – As Walmart workers across the U.S. prepare for a national day of action against workplace inequality this week, a new Demos report predicts that by 2022, there will be more American women struggling in low-wage retail jobs than all the people now living in the city of Los Angeles.
LaShanda Myric is already one of the predicted 4.1 million American women the Demos report says will be stuck in dead-end jobs that neither pay enough, nor provide the income stability needed to properly support a family today.
“I know what it’s like hoping and praying that I can work enough to keep my family off of welfare,” Myric said this week.
The single mom from Denver, Colorado will be taking part in June 4’s national day of action against Walmart even though she says, “Walmart tries to silence mom’s like me who have been speaking out.”
“It hurts me that my child can’t sleep in her own bed at night,” Myric said.
Myric started working the nightshift for a two-dollar bump in her $8.20 Walmart salary, but as a result, has been forced to leave her young daughter at her grandmother’s house each evening before heading off to work.
Another child is poised for college, but tuition remains an unanswered question. Money is scare, and despite Myric’s efforts, the family must still rely on food stamps. Myric’s situation, however, is not exceptional.
“Today, 1.3 million women working in retail live or near poverty,” said Amy Traub, senior policy analyst at Demos and author of the new report. “Wages are a real concern for the most common job in the country.”
According to Traub, the typical woman now working in retail makes $10.58 an hour. Hardly enough to support a family, and actually around four dollars less than what the typical man makes at the same position.
The retail industry’s increased use of “Just-In-Time” scheduling software – which seeks to match consumer demand with the need for labor – is also making it harder for women to take care of their household business.
“Think about what this does to your budget if you don’t know how much money you’re going to earn next week or the week after,” Traub said. “It’s difficult for workers to plan child care, elder care – or even make a doctor’s appointment if they don’t know when they’ll be scheduled to work.”
Worker advocates, insist that the retail industry can move swiftly to alleviate these issues, while also creating a stronger workforce and a more vibrant economy – and it wouldn’t even hurt their bottom line.
When Demos constructed an economic model in which all retail companies employing 1,000 workers or more raised wages to the equivalent to $25,000 a year for full-time work, they found that the standard of living for more than 3 million female-headed households was significantly impacted.
“It’s interesting to note that because women are disproportionately concentrated in lower-wage jobs in the industry, a wage increase would benefit them the most and would help to close the gender pay gap in retail, even if low-paid women and men were both raised to that same level of $25.000 a year,” Traub said.
At the same time, the report’s authors say that giving women more spending power would boost the economy – as measured by GDP – by as much as $6.9 to $8.9 billion – in addition to creating more than 100,000 new jobs in the process.
This week, Walmart workers around the country will be delivering that message straight to the retail giant.
“I decided to work at Walmart because I was told it was a place I would have opportunity,” Myric said. “However, since I have started working there, I have discovered that Walmart says one thing about its jobs and scheduling practices, but the reality is very different.”