SOURCE: New Hampshire Union Leader By: Mark Hayward

Wal-Mart’s entry pay is now at least $9 an hour and will rise to $10 early next year.

McDonald’s average wage will rise to $1 over the minimum wage in July, and $10 by the end of next year.

The two corporate giants, pilloried for years over the treatment and pay of their workers, earlier this year started addressing those issues. And they did so in an unusual way — by providing specific numbers.

They are doing so in the face of pressure from a number of sides: states and cities looking to increase their minimum wage, tight labor markets, and union-backed efforts such as Fight for $15, which wants to raise hourly wages to $15.

“We need to work toward a situation where you make enough through work to have more than a bare-bones existence,” said Arnie Alpert, whose American Friends Service Committee has helped organize pickets outside fast-food restaurants.

Any movement in retail and fast-food wages can affect the paycheck for thousands of Granite Staters. According to the most recent statistics from the Labor Market and Information Bureau, New Hampshire counted 22,000 people working as cashiers in June of last year, 26,000 in retail sales and 11,800 in fast-food type jobs.

Workers in all three categories earned an average starting pay of less than $8.50 an hour last June, according to the most recent wage report compiled by the state Department of Employment Security. The minimum wage in New Hampshire is $7.25 an hour.

It’s not clear what effect the announcements by Wal-Mart and McDonald’s will have on other employers, and even most McDonald’s restaurants, which are owned by independent franchise operators and not subject to pay levels set for corporate-owned restaurants.

For example, the McDonald’s in Lincoln has advertisements on the state Job Match System that offer between $7.50 and $8 an hour for shift managers and crew workers. And Michael Gambino, the owner of three McDonald’s restaurants in Manchester, wouldn’t discuss specifics about wages, other than to say they are competitive with the local market, and the job provides benefits.

“This (benefit) package includes ample opportunities for advancement, meals, bonus opportunities, performance reviews with pay increases, insurance, tuition assistance and scholarship programs,” he said in a statement emailed to the newspaper.

Likewise, Dunkin’ Donuts wouldn’t give information on specific pay levels for the 200-plus Dunkin’ Donut restaurants in New Hampshire. Justin Drake, a spokesman for Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc., said Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants are owned and operated by individual franchisees, who make all employment decisions. Drake said the franchisees comply with all state and federal wage and hour laws, including minimum wage.

If the Manchester McDonald’s wage is competitive, it should be $9.79, which is the average wage for fast-food workers in Manchester last June, according to the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security.

“The whole labor market is tighter,” said Annette Nielsen, an economist with the state Labor Market and Information Bureau. “I really don’t see any wages under $8. It’s probably hard at this point to get qualified labor under $8 an hour.”

Part of the reason was the severity of the Great Recession, which made workers wary of leaving one job for another. Another reason: Baby boomers retired, allowing employers to replace them with younger, less experienced workers, who could be paid less.

“When large corporations make a move, they could start a trend,” Nielsen said.

In February, Wal-Mart announced its plans for the wage hikes, and the first went into effect earlier this month. The company raised its minimum starting wage to $9, and will increase it to $10, by next February. Wal-Mart wages went up across the board by 2 percent, and the increases affected 2,127 New Hampshire workers, said Bill Wertz, regional spokesman for the retailer.

He said the average, full-time wage for a New Hampshire Wal-Mart worker is $13.90.

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