The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Giant Retail Profiteers Drop “Hero” Pay

Dec 7, 2020

United for Respect, an organization representing Amazon and Walmart workers, is now demanding a $5-an-hour pay increase, pandemic pay leave, free COVID testing, contact tracing and treatment, as well as full pay to workers who need to self-isolate after a positive case is detected.

These workers are called “heroes” and “essential workers” because they risk their lives every day. But retail companies pay barely more than the minimum wage. Home Depot pays cashiers $12 an hour on average, while those working at Dollar General make a measly $8 an hour. The average starting wage at Walmart is $11 an hour.

While many of the top retail companies provided some hazard pay, temporary pay raises and bonuses in the first months of the pandemic, they ended that more than five months ago. And they haven’t brought any of the pay raises back, even now that the pandemic is more dangerous than ever.

These top retail companies’ profits have skyrocketed during the pandemic. Walmart, Kroger and Home Depot’s 2020 profits increased by close to 40% on average in comparison to their last year’s profits, reaching tens of billions of dollars. Amazon’s profit rose to incredible heights, 200%. The stock prices of these giant corporations are also dramatically higher, up an average of 33%. As such, these companies handsomely exploit the dire conditions created by the COVID-19 epidemic to their advantage. Being so profitable for these companies is not very surprising. They pay very low wages!

“Amazon canceled the measly $2 bonus back in June. Jeff Bezos has made $70 billion since March when the pandemic started. Amazon calls us heroes in their commercials, they call us essential, but it feels like we are expendable,” said Courtenay Brown, an Amazon Fresh worker in New Jersey. Yes, that is correct. Under capitalism, their profits are everything, and our lives are nothing.