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A glimpse at grocery wages suggests room for increases

employee – walmart

I find it disgustingly vulgar when business news run stories about the latest gargantuan CEO salary. But that’s just me.

Here’s something on the other end: an appraisal of wages paid by major companies, focusing on how many employees make under $15 an hour.

Let’s look at retail grocery.

Whole Foods comes across admirably: only 1 percent of employees make less than $15 an hour. Twenty-four percent make $20 or over.


Aldi: better than some. Only 36 percent of employees make less than $15. Twenty-one percent make at least $20.

Price Chopper: 49 percent make under $15, with another 21 percent making over $20.

H-E-B: 25 percent make under $15 an hour, with 15 percent making $20 and over.

Target: only 3 percent of employees make under $15, but then only 4 percent make over $20. Eighty-two percent of employees make between $14 and $16 an hour.

Albertsons: 36 percent under $15; 21 percent over $20.

The often admired Wegmans doesn’t come off incredibly well: 50 percent make under $15, and only 12 percent make over $20.

Food Lion: 77 percent under $15; 2 percent, $20 or more.

Kroger: 48 percent under $15; 9 percent, $20 or more.

Publix: 60 percent under $15; 7 percent, $20 plus.

To save the big one for last: Walmart, 51 percent under $15; 9 percent, $20 plus.

A $15 wage is still touted as some grand wage objective. That’s great because, as we’ve seen, plenty of people haven’t gotten there yet.

But for another perspective, let’s also look at MIT’s Living Wage Calculator.

In Houston, a living wage for one person with no children is $15.67, which is double Texas’s minimum wage rate of $7.25.

Atlanta is a bit rougher. Although the state minimum wage is also $7.25, a living wage for a person with no children is $17.11 per hour.

Cincinnati, home to Kroger, has a living wage of $14.42 for a single person with no dependents.

California has a minimum wage of $15. But in the Los Angeles area, a living wage for a single person is $19.96.

Boston has Massachusetts’ minimum wage rate of $14.25, but here a living wage is $21.26 for one.

All of these figures are for single people with no children. In Boston, the living wage for one person working and supporting one adult and one child is $36.41.

In Cincinnati, it’s $27.30 for one adult supporting one adult and one child. By these calculations, only 9 percent of Kroger employees in its headquarters metropolis are within striking range of supporting a spouse and a child.

You can make statistics say what you want, but these at least suggest that pressure for higher wages is not going away soon in retail grocery.


Richard Smoley, contributing editor for Blue Book Services, Inc., has more than 40 years of experience in magazine writing and editing, and is the former managing editor of California Farmer magazine. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford universities, he has published 12 books.