The company said it was merely passing along to workers some of the savings it will get from a cut in the corporate tax rate.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will raise the starting wage rate for all of its US hourly associates to $11, expand maternity and parental leave benefits, and give eligible full- and part-time employees a one-time cash bonus of up to $1,000.
The move comes three years after Wal-Mart last announced it was raising wages, spending $1 billion in 2015 to lift starting hourly pay to $9 and then to $10 the following year - for workers who complete a 90-day training course.
Mr. McMillon credited the recent passage of a lower corporate tax rate by Congress and President Trump as the impetus for the retailer's largesse.
"Given these changes, we have an opportunity to accelerate a few pieces of our investment plan", said Walmart CEO Doug McMillon in the statement.
In fact, with unemployment at just over 4% and workers' real wages finally rising after years of sluggishness, the giant retailer might not have had much choice, regardless of what transpired in Washington last month. Walmart said a "discrete" one-time charge will be taken in the fourth quarter of the current year to account for the bonus. The average wage was $13.56 for regular, full-time hourly associates in Walmart's discount stores, supercenters and neighborhood markets.
Southwest also said it would give an additional $5 million to charities, and pledged to buy more planes from Boeing, its aircraft supplier.
Rival retailer Target Corp raised its minimum wage to $11 in September, and said it would raise its minimum wage to $15 by 2020. Average hourly earnings for production and non-supervisory workers were up 2.3 percent in December from a year earlier, according to Labor Department figures. According to Carl Quintanilla of CNBC, almost 85,000 employees have 20 plus years of service and will qualify for the full $1,000, while another 200,000 or so will get $750. The one-time cash bonuses, meanwhile, will cost the company about $400 million, or about 0.08 percent of its annual revenue. But a company spokesman told AFP the starting wage for all workers now will be at least $11.
"Tax reform gives us the opportunity to be more competitive globally and to accelerate plans for the United States", he added.
Large employers have been under pressure to boost benefits for workers because unemployment rates are at historic lows, allowing job seekers to be pickier.
Walmart will also offer other nonpecuniary forms of compensation such as expanding its parental and maternity leave policy.
Several other institutional investors and hedge funds have also made changes to their positions in the company. A little less than a year ago, Walmart bumped its minimum wage up a dollar to $10.
Walmart is also rolling out another new benefit that will provide financial assistance to employees looking to adopt a child.
"I would've been astounded if they hadn't raised wages", said Thomas Kochan, at professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management.