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NRF’s Incoming Chair: Group Should Moderate Stance on Minimum Wage

The National Retail Federation, which has taken a stance against increasing the federal minimum wage, will soon find itself in conflict with its own chairman on that position. Incoming board chair Kip Tindell, CEO of the Container Store, hopes to use his role to convince the retail group to soften its stance.

New Year’s Day is still months away, but the National Retail Federation (NRF) sounds like it’s headed toward a fairly interesting 2015.

You can credit NRF’s incoming chairman for part of that. Last week, Container Store Group CEO Kip Tindell, expected to be chosen next month to lead NRF’s board through 2015, suggested in an interview that he would push the retail group to moderate its stance on increasing the minimum wage, which currently sits at $7.25 at the federal level.

“I’m working, frankly, to get the NRF to maybe moderate its view on that,” Tindell told Bloomberg. “It’s unbecoming to speak out against raising the minimum wage.”

Tindell’s stance matches that of his company’s ethos: The Container Store routinely pays its employees as much as double the federal minimum wage and offers healthcare to its part-time employees at a time when many other retail companies are considering cutting such benefits due to changes enforced by the Affordable Care Act.

But if Tindell, who currently serves as NRF’s first vice chairman, succeeds in talking fast-food companies, big-box stores, and small boutiques into softening their opposition to raising the minimum wage, it’ll be a fairly dramatic shift for the retail group, which has pushed hard against an increase.

On Wednesday, for example, NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay wrote an op-ed for The Hill, arguing that a push to increase the minimum wage, an effort currently in vogue due to the midterm elections, ignores the fact that low-level retail jobs are often not the last stop for many employees.

“Policies like raising the minimum wage may sound good in the context of a political campaign, but they will only result in fewer entry-level jobs in industries like retail—jobs that often represent a critical first step toward a rewarding career,” he wrote.

For its part, the trade group welcomes Tindell’s differing take on the issue, noting the importance of varying opinions in the boardroom.

“We look forward to Kip’s continued leadership in facilitating the larger discussions on a myriad of complex challenges and opportunities that impact retail enterprises of all types and sizes,” NRF Senior Vice President Bill Thorne said in a statement to Bloomberg. “Diverse opinions and perspectives from NRF members are what make our industry strong and our advocacy efforts effective.”

Container Store CEO and forthcoming NRF Chairman Kip Tindell, shown promoting his new book "Uncontainable." (Facebook photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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