By TOM MURPHY AP Health Writer
Walgreens will hike starting pay to $15 an hour beginning in October, as employers across the United States continue boosting wages to attract workers.
The drugstore chain said Tuesday that the wage hike will take effect in phases and be completed by November 2022. It will affect workers in the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the company has about 190,000 hourly employees and 9,100 store locations.
Around half of those employees already earn at least $15 an hour, spokesman Phil Caruso said. He added that starting wages vary according to market but are currently not less than $10 per hour.
CEO Roz Brewer said in a statement from the company that the pay raise was both the right thing to do and “highly important” to attracting and keeping workers.
The official federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour hasn’t been raised since 2009. But many employers, especially in the retail industry, have been offering a $15 wage to try to fill enough jobs to meet surging demand from consumers.
Labor advocates have trumpeted $15 an hour as a wage that would finally allow low-paid workers to afford basic necessities and narrow inequality.
Walgreens rival CVS Health also said early this month that it was raising minimum pay for all employees earning hourly wages up to at least $15 an hour by next July. Employees there currently make a minimum of $11 an hour, but that will climb to $13 next month.
Outside retail, one of the country’s largest banks, Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank, said Monday that it was raising its minimum wage to $18 an hour.
Walgreens said Tuesday that it will spend about $450 million over the next three years on the starting wage increase.
Deerfield, Illinois-based Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. also runs thousands of drugstores in several other countries, including the Boots chain in the United Kingdom.
Company shares climbed more than 3% to $50.19 in midday trading while the Dow Jones Industrial Average, of which Walgreens is a component, rose slightly.