Walmart announced today that it will raise wages for all U.S. staff to at least $9 per hour, at least 40 percent more than what many are currently receiving.

This announcement comes after years of public criticism blaming the company for low wages and poor employee benefits.

The announcement also stated that its 500,000 employees will earn at least $10 per hour by April, 2016, more than $2 over the federal minimum wage.

The company has seen much criticism in the past few years over its low wages and even accused of trapping its employees in poverty and forcing them to seek public assistance. 

The company has seen protests by activists, as well as employee walk-outs during the retail stores' busiest seasons over Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Last year, other retailers, such as Gap and IKEA, also raised their wages above the federal minimum.

"The announcement is clearly the result of years of organizing by Walmart employees," says Christine L. Owens, director of the National Employment Law Project. "Few could have envisioned a group of workers forcing Walmart, ruthlessly committed to cost-cutting, to unilaterally raise wages. But, standing together, Walmart employees have done just that, providing inspiration to worker movements everywhere."

Walmart is also taking other complaints from workers seriously and stated it would take steps to give employees improved and more fixed work schedules, as well as improve training. The company also announced a program that helps employees gain their high school degree at no cost to them, as well as help them attend college.

"Sometimes we don't get it all right," says Walmart Stores chief executive Doug McMillon. "As a team, we really wanted to demonstrate this year that we really care about you as associates and appreciate the work you do every day."

Walmart made this announcement after their fourth quarter profit came out ahead of estimates.

Currently, only about 6,000 employees from 1.2 million with the company make $7.25 per hour, the federal minimum wage. Walmart is the largest single employer in the U.S.

Although President Barack Obama proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, his efforts have so far been blocked. However, many states, as well as some cities, have already raised their minimums. The topic of the federal minimum wage has been a hot topic of discussion in the U.S. for the past several years as it hasn't been raised since 2009, although the average cost of living in the U.S. has greatly increased since then.

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