Christmas PresentAs minimum wage goes up for workers around the country, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will also be giving employees at 1,434 of its stores a raise. The Wal-Mart wage increases will affect approximately 33 percent of the retail giant's United States locations.

Minimum wage increases will be taking effect in 21 states in January of 2015. According to a Wal-Mart Stores spokesperson, the changes were made to make sure that Wal-Mart is in compliance with new laws in those states.

Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the United States and currently has 1.3 million workers on its books. Therefore, any changes in minimum wage affect the retail giant in a very big way. The retailer operates on very tight margins as it tries to keep its operating costs at an absolute minimum in order to provide shoppers with the lowest prices possible.

Wal-Mart Is Struggling to Stay Competitive

During the economic crisis, numerous lower income Americans lost their jobs, so the discount chain has had a difficult time increasing sales in recent years. The higher pay to these workers could represent additional setbacks for the retailer.

As a part of the pay adjustments Wal-Mart will lump a number of lower positions into the same base pay rate, combining cashiers, maintenance workers and cart pushers into the same pay category. According to one Wal-Mart store manager, the store is implementing various organizational strategies to minimize the cost of wage increases at the lower level, to distribute the burden across all of its employees.

Wal-Mart has been criticized by labor unions and its workers, who are saying that the retailer does not pay its workers enough, and that many of the workers require government assistance in order to pay their bills. Labor groups say that Wal-Mart needs to pay its employees at least a $15 an hour minimum wage.

What Do You Think About a Minimum Wage Raise?

The holiday season is definitely a time when many low-income individuals feel the tightness of their budgets as they struggle to treat their families and friends well with gifts over the holidays. Do you think that a $15 an hour minimum wage is fair, or is this too much money to pay for low level jobs? What other kinds of employment law changes do you think could be helpful?