Longtime labor rights advocate Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday welcomed the announcement that retail giant Target will permanently raise the starting wage for all hourly full-time and part-time workers at U.S. stores, distribution centers, and headquarters locations to $15 per hour beginning July 5.
“Years of grassroots organizing has created an unstoppable movement,” tweeted Sanders (I-Vt.), who is sponsoring federal legislation to raise the minimum wage nationwide from $7.25 to $15. “Now the Senate must pass our Raise the Wage Act and guarantee a dignified, living wage for every worker in America.”
Target’s announcement today shows us that a $15 minimum wage is an idea whose time has come. Years of grassroots organizing has created an unstoppable movement. Now the Senate must pass our Raise the Wage Act and guarantee a dignified, living wage for every worker in America. https://t.co/EgjBTkgTZs— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) June 17, 2020
Sanders and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) introduced the Raise the Wage Act (H.R. 582/S. 150) in January 2019. While the Democrat-controlled House passed the bill last July, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has ignored repeated calls from the sponsors and other supporters that he put the measure to a vote.
Patriotic Millionaires is among the national organizations that have previously pressured McConnell and the Senate to approve the bill, citing research showing that raising wages can be a matter of life and death for low-wage employees. The group reiterated that demand on Twitter Wednesday after Target’s announcement:
Target has over 350,000 employees and nearly 1,900 stores across the country. The upcoming move to a $15 hourly wage will impact about 275,000 workers and fulfill the company’s goal set in September 2017 to slowly transition from a starting wage of $11 by this year. The last wage increase, to $13, came in June 2019.
Along with the new starting wage, Target announced a one-time bonus of $200 to be distributed at the end of July to frontline hourly workers—both in stores and distribution centers—who have remained on the job during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The company also announced new and extended Covid-19 benefits, including free virtual doctor visits and paid leave options for certain vulnerable workers and those who are symptomatic, have a confirmed case of the virus, or are quarantined.
“The most important investments we make are in our team. I have tremendous gratitude for the way our team members show up with such purpose and pride for our guests, communities, and one another,” said Melissa Kremer, Target’s chief human resources Officer. “These investments help ensure that team members can build meaningful careers, take care of themselves and their families, and contribute to building our communities through their work inside and outside of Target.”
Target is one of the retailers that kept its doors open to sell essential items from groceries to toilet paper during stay-at-home orders. As employees continued to come to work and took on new tasks, such as sanitizing and frequently restocking shelves, Target announced a temporary pay increase of $2 an hour to at least $15 in March, and it was extended through July 4.
Sanders, in another tweet Wednesday, noted that Amazon caved to public pressure and raised its starting wage in 2018, and called on Walmart to urgently do the same:
Two years ago, Amazon raised their minimum wage to $15 an hour. Today, Target raised their minimum wage to $15 an hour. Now Walmart, owned by the wealthiest family in America, must do the same. We must eliminate starvation wages in America.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) June 17, 2020
Along with Walmart and Amazon, Target-owned grocery delivery service Shipt faced criticism from workers and labor rights advocates for its handling of the pandemic. In early April, Shipt gig workers joined a nationwide wave of employee-led direct action by staging a walkout, demanding personal protective equipment, two weeks of paid sick leave, and hazard pay. Some Shipt and Target employees also participated in protests on May 1, which is recognized globally as May Day or International Workers Day.