BENTONVILLE, Ark. (CN) – Walmart said Thursday that it will raise the starting salary for U.S. employees to $11 an hour, pay out a one-time cash bonus for eligible associates of up to $1,000, and expand maternity and parental leave benefits.
The world’s largest private employer said the combined wage and benefits changes will affect more than 1 million hourly workers nationwide. The wage hike, up from $9 an hour, becomes effective in February and applies to all hourly associates in the U.S., including at Walmart retail stores, Sam’s Clubs, e-commerce, logistics and headquarters.
Walmart workers can also expect a new benefit to assist with adoption expenses, up to $5,000 per child.
CEO Doug McMillon said in a statement that the retail giant is “early in the stages” of assessing the opportunities that last month’s tax-reform bill created “to invest in our customers and associates and to further strengthen our business.”
“Tax reform gives us the opportunity to be more competitive globally and to accelerate plans for the U.S.,” McMillon said.
Walmart’s move follows similar decisions by companies like AT&T, Comcast and Wells Fargo, each of which either handed out bonuses or raised wages after the newly passed tax plan. Target raised its minimum hourly wage to $11 in October, and will raise wages to $15 by the end of 2020, the Associated Press reported.
The Bentonville, Ark.-based retail giant said the amount of an employee’s bonus will be based on length of service – workers with at least 20 years qualify for $1,000.
Thursday’s announcement promised full-time hourly employees in the U.S. 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of paid parental leave. Salaried employees will also receive six weeks of paid parental leave. Walmart employs 1.5 million U.S. workers.
Not everyone bought Walmart’s claim that the wage and benefit increases were linked to tax reform. Morris Pearl, chair of the Patriotic Millionaires, called the move political.
“The decision by Walmart and other companies to implement raises they’d already planned and credit it to the GOP’s corporate tax giveaway is politics at its most cynical,” Pearl said in a statement. “Companies were already raising wages even before the tax cut passed in response to a tight labor market, grassroots pressure from groups like the Fight for $15, and the rush of minimum wage hikes from California to New York. Take it from those of us on the inside: these companies aren’t raising pay because they want to. They’re doing it because working people stood up and demanded more.”
Later on Thursday, a Walmart official said it is closing 63 Sam’s Club stores nationwide. Eight of them reportedly closed Thursday and the rest are expected to be shuttered in the coming weeks.