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Center for Labor Research and Education

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What would it cost Wal-Mart to increase pay?

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ABC 7-local News

BERKELEY, Calif. Dec. 5, 2007 (KGO) — Wal-Mart is getting new attention for its business practices. This time, it’s a study from UC Berkeley’s Labor Research Center.

It suggests that Wal-Mart could pay its people more, and still provide customers with low prices.

Wal-Mart is the country’s largest retailer with arguably some of the lowest prices.

“But one part of their lower prices is also from the fact they pay lower wages and benefits,” said UC Berkeley labor researcher Arin Dube.

Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and education studied what would happen if Wal-Mart raised its minimum wage to ten dollars an hour.

For the average worker it could mean a raise of from one thousand to four thousand dollars a year.

“That’s something you actually see in your paycheck,” said Dube.

Wal-Mart employee Mario Gonzales certainly wouldn’t mind a raise.

“Then I’d be happy. If I made ten dollars an hour then I’d be in a whole lot better situation than I am right now,” said Gonzales.

The study says shoppers would only pay 36-cents more each time they visited the store or less than ten dollars a year. These customers say they wouldn’t mind paying a little extra.

“Why not, because these people are trying to make a living,” said Laura Wainer from San Francisco.

“It would be important for us to pay a little bit more money so people can be treated fairly,” said Margaret Dale from Oakland.

Another report from the center says just the introduction of a new Wal-Mart store to the area has an impact on jobs.

“What has happened is they have also driven down the wages and benefit standards in places they have come to,” said Dube.

Wal-Mart responded with this statement: “We create economic opportunity by providing good and secure jobs that give associates the chance to build careers.”

The company said workers earn an average $10.83 an hour, and it’s higher in urban areas. In California it’s $11.59 an hour.

The center says as criticism mounts, Wal-Mart has improved employee benefits.

“Still less than half of Wal-mart workers have health care at the job, so there’s a lot of room for improvement as far as I can tell,” said Dube.