Walmart announced today it is raising the minimum wage, as well as increasing pay rates at all positions, resulting in raises for 500,000 full-time and part-time associates at Walmart U.S. stores and Sam's Clubs in the first half of the year.  

In a company press release, Walmart said hourly associates will earn at least $1.75 above today's federal minimum wage, or $9.00 per hour, in April. 

The following year, by Feb. 1, 2016, current associates will earn at least $10.00 per hour.

The company also promised that workers “will have more control over their schedules,” as well as more training and promotion opportunities.

"Today, we announced comprehensive changes to our hiring, training, compensation and scheduling programs, as well as to our store management structure," said Doug McMillon, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. president and CEO. "These changes will give our U.S. associates the opportunity to earn higher pay and advance in their careers. We're pursuing a comprehensive approach that is sustainable over the long term." 

McMillon added that by realigning the store operational structure, associates can also "enjoy a closer relationship with their supervisors."

The wage increases will cost more than $1 billion this fiscal year.

In announcing the initiative, McMillion acknowledged that the company has taken some hits on Main Street, and Wall Street.  

“We have work to do to grow the business. We know what customers want from a shopping experience, and we’re investing strategically to exceed their expectations and better position Walmart for the future,” he said. “We’re strengthening investments in our people to engage and inspire them to deliver superior customer experiences.”

The company, which is the nation’s largest employer, has long been under fire for its pay rates. 

Workers at Walmart stores around the country have gone on strike repeatedly, particularly around busy holiday shopping periods, to demand higher pay, better scheduling, and the right to unionize. 

Full-time employees currently make an average of $12.85 an hour and part-time employees make an average of $9.48, says spokesperson Kory Lundberg. Those averages will increase to $13 and $10 respectively under the new plan.

Tags: Minimum Wage, Walmart