In this March 31, 2020 file photo, a woman pulls groceries from a cart to her vehicle outside of a Walmart store in Pearl, Miss. Credit: Julio Cortez | AP

About 165,000 Walmart supercenter employees are about to get more pay, but it’s coming with more responsibility for how their stores operate and look. In two key departments, bakery and deli, Walmart will pay the $15 minimum wage that retail workers have been targeting for years.

An organizational structure that was tried out first last year at Sam’s Club and this year at Walmart Neighborhood Markets is coming to Walmart’s workhorse — the supercenter.

Supercenters will have small teams that are cross-trained and given responsibility “for specific parts of the store being in-stock and meeting visual standards,” said Dacona Smith, chief operating officer at Walmart U.S.

Those hourly team lead roles start out with pay of between $18 and $21 an hour and can go up to $30 an hour. Pay is also being increased for salaried digital, asset protection and auto care center assistant manager jobs.

“Through this new, tiered structure for team leads, we’re creating room for pay and career growth while investing in areas like pickup and delivery as customers increasingly turn to those options,” Smith said.

The new minimum wage in deli and bakery of $15 an hour is up from $11 an hour, matching its two biggest competitors, Target and Amazon.

Beginning in July, Target permanently raised its starting wages to $15, matching Amazon’s starting pay for full-time, part-time, store and distribution center hourly employees. Kroger just completed negotiations with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union that raised wages and benefits by $2.30 an hour in its 98 Dallas-Fort Worth stores over multiple years.

Walmart auto center employees are also getting raises of at least $1 an hour.

The team operating model “has been very successful at Sam’s Club over the past year,” and creates camaraderie in a smaller, supportive group, said Smith, whose early career advancement at Walmart was in Texas. Texas is Walmart’s biggest market, with 593 stores and 158,545 employees.

The cross training will give these employees skills to support others who want to take time off or just need extra help during busy shifts, he said.

The pay increases start in October and will take the place of annual increases typically given in February or April. This group of employees will no longer receive the quarterly bonuses that go to hourly staff members. An “overwhelming majority” of employees surveyed said their hourly wages are the most important part of their pay, Smith said.

Walmart also said that so far during the pandemic it has paid out $1.1 billion in bonuses.

Story by Maria Halkias

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