Hobby Lobby raising full-time minimum wage to $17 an hour

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Hobby Lobby is raising the minimum wage for its full-time workers to $17 an hour ahead of the holiday season.

The arts-and-crafts chain will implement the permanent raise Oct. 1, making it the latest big retailer to increase staffers’ pay amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Oklahoma-based company said it last hiked its minimum full-time wage to $15 an hour in 2014.

“Because this year has presented so many challenges to our employees, we are very happy that we are able to provide pay increases to thousands of our associates before the Christmas season,” Hobby Lobby founder and CEO David Green said in a Monday statement announcing the change.

The raise will come about three months after Target increased its starting wage to $15 an hour in an effort to support its workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

Other retail giants such as Walmart and Amazon have temporarily hiked hourly wages and paid bonuses to workers that helped them stay up and running amid the pandemic.

Hobby Lobby, which has more than 43,000 employees and over 900 stores, said all its shops had reopened in July after the virus forced them to close. But the chain reportedly drew fire in the spring for trying to keep stores open as an “essential” retailer.

Founded by Green in 1972, Hobby Lobby is known for its religious values that have sometimes drawn the company and its owners into controversies.

In 2017, Hobby Lobby agreed to pay $3 million to settle a federal complaint that accused the company of buying more than 5,000 ancient Iraqi artifacts that had allegedly been smuggled through the United Arab Emirates and Israel.

And in 2019 the feds seized a historic clay tablet known as the “Gilgamesh Dream Tablet” from Hobby Lobby’s Museum of the Bible that the chain had purchased after it was allegedly looted from Iraq.

Hobby Lobby — which closes its stores on Sundays to give employees “time for family and for worship” — also won a 2014 Supreme Court case that allowed closely held private companies to deny their female employees insurance coverage for contraceptives.

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