Walmart raises wages, gives bonuses after GOP tax cut

Last Updated Jan 11, 2018 1:57 PM EST

Walmart (WMT), the largest private employer in the country, said Thursday it will raise its starting wages for U.S. store workers and offer some employees bonuses following passage of tax cuts in Washington. 

The announcement came the same day the retail giant reportedly closed more than 60 Sam's Clubs stores

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based chain plans to raise the starting wage for employees from $9 to $11 per hour and give some employees bonuses of up to $1,000. 

"As you know, the President and Congress have approved a lower business tax rate. Given these changes, we have an opportunity to accelerate a few pieces of our investment plan," CEO Doug McMillon said in a statement. "Associates that don't benefit from the new starting wage increase are eligible for the bonus and it will range from $200 to $1,000 depending on your length of service."

Full and part-time hourly associates who have been at the company for 20 years or more will be eligible for the $1,000 bonus. 

The new wages start February 17, 2018 and apply to hourly associates in U.S. stores, Sam's Clubs, logistics and Home Office. Additionally, the company announced it will grant 10 weeks maternity leave and six weeks paid parental leave to full-time hourly associates, including leave for parents who adopt.  McMillon said for eligible employees, Walmart will also contribute $5,000 to the cost of adoption.

The company said the moves that will affect more than a million hourly workers in the U.S. are tied to recently enacted tax legislation that will save it money. They do also reflect the tight labor market in which employers are competing for workers, as both Walmart and its rival Target have been raising wages for the past few years.

President Donald Trump cheered the announcement with a tweet, saying ""Great news, as a result of our TAX CUTS & JOBS ACT!"

Dozens of other companies have announced worker bonuses following the passage of the Republican tax plan, such  AT&T (T) , Comcast (CMCSA), Wells Fargo (WFC) and Boeing (BA). Large employers also have been under pressure to boost benefits for workers because unemployment rates are at historic lows, allowing job seekers to be pickier.

One-time payouts are far less valuable to employees than permanent pay raises. About a dozen banks have said they will raise their minimum wages. A handful of mostly small companies have announced pay increases for most of their workforces. And a few have said they will raise their contributions to their employees' retirement plans.

--The Associated Press contributed to this report