PRESCOTT VALLEY - Following Wal-Mart's announcement on Feb. 19 that they will be raising their starting employee wage to $9 an hour by April and $10 by February of next year, the estimated 500,000 Wal-Mart employees who will be affected are waiting anxiously to see their paychecks increase.
"The associates at my store are extremely excited," said Kevin Ray, the store manager for Prescott Valley's Wal-Mart Supercenter.
The Wal-Mart Ray manages sits right off Glassford Hill Road - next to Kohl's. It has only been open a little more than a year now.
"With us being a fairly new store, the changes will impact more of them here than maybe at other stores," Ray said.
With the three Wal-Mart Supercenters and one Sam's Club between Prescott and Prescott Valley, there are about 1,000 Wal-Mart employees in the area. However, only those who are making below $10 are going to feel the changes Wal-Mart has unveiled for the coming year.
Arizona's minimum wage is currently sitting at $8.05 per hour. Therefore, this gradual wage bump isn't necessarily tremendous, but Ray says it does make a difference.
"It'll definitely help them [associates] do some of the extra things in life that they've been wanting to do that maybe they couldn't before," Ray said.
Wal-Mart employs about 1.3 million workers in the U.S. and about 2.2 million worldwide. This means that the estimated 500,000 employees expected to be impacted by the wage increases make up about 40 percent of Wal-Mart's American workforce.
This moderate wage increase is only a fraction of what Wal-Mart has planned for the next five years. They have committed $100 million to creating more economic mobility for the U.S. retail workforces. Their first installment will devote $16 million to fund grants to seven non-profits. The money will be used within the organizations to provide training, education and career pathways for U.S. retail workers, according to Wal-Mart.
This donation falls in line with the company's stance on upward mobility within a business.
"Seventy-five percent of our store management teams started in hourly positions and now make between $50,000 and $170,000 a year, and we want more of our associates to have that same opportunity," said Delia Garcia, director of communications for Wal-Mart.
Ray is a perfect example of this potential career advancement touted by Wal-Mart officials.
He started as a temporary lawn and garden associate in Riverton, Wyoming, when he was 16.
"I was supposed to just make it through the summer, but at the end of the summer, they decided to keep me on and kept me for almost 21 years now," Ray said.
Ray took on the managerial position in Prescott Valley when it opened in January 2014. He was a manager at the Prescott location for a few years before that.
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