One major U.S. retailer isn't waiting for Congress to raise the minimum wage. Gap Inc. is going a few steps down the path of companies like Costco, Trader Joe's, and In-N-Out that pay above-minimum wages in low-wage industries. Gap will be raising wages for workers at all its brands, including Banana Republic and Old Navy, to $9 an hour in 2014 and $10 in 2015, a change that will give about 65,000 workers a raise.
Currently, the highest state minimum wage is $9.32 per hour in Washington; Washington, DC, is in the process of raising its minimum wage to $11.50 in 2016. The federal minimum wage is stuck at $7.25, with workers waiting for their first raise since 2009 and congressional Republicans still blocking the legislation. But Gap's CEO Glenn Murphy described it as a business decision. He:
... pointedly avoided any discussion of the political or moral arguments about economic inequality that often animate the debate. “To us this is not a political issue,” Murphy said. “Our decision to invest in our frontline employees will directly support our business, and is one that we expect to deliver a return many times over.”That's an argument that companies like Costco embrace in paying substantially better wages than Gap's planned $10, which amounts to, on the one hand, less than $21,000 a year for a full-time worker but, on the other hand, more than $5,000 a year over the federal minimum wage for the same full-time worker. In 2012, Apple similarly gave workers in its stores a big raise. Now if Congress would just raise the minimum wage and Gap would sign a binding safety accord for manufacturing in Bangladesh.