NEW YORK — The owner of T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods stores became the latest retailer to increase wages for its U.S. workers, putting pressure on other chains to do the same.

TJX Cos. said Wednesday that its U.S. workers will be paid at least $9 an hour starting in June. In 2016, the company plans to pay all workers who have worked at its stores for more than six months at least $10 per hour. The company has 11 stores in Maine and 191,000 workers around the world.

The announcement came a week after Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it would increase starting wages for its U.S. employees to at least $9 per hour by April and to at least $10 by February 2016. Home furnishings retailer IKEA and Gap clothing chain also have raised pay recently.

John Challenger, CEO of the global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., said the moves could create a domino effect in which other companies follow suit in order to compete for top talent.

“Other retailers may have no other choice but to follow,” he said. “The pool of available labor is starting to shrink and it will take more than a store discount to attract the best of available candidates.”

The moves by the major retailers to raise wages come at a pivotal time when the plight of hourly workers has made national headlines.

Protests by fast-food workers asking for higher pay have increased. Labor-backed groups have taken aim at Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer with 1.3 million workers, to start entry wages at $15 per hour. President Obama is endorsing a bill in Congress that includes a proposed increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. And several states are considering raising their minimum wages.

In Portland, a City Council committee is reviewing a measure that would raise the city’s basic wage to $9.50, well above the state minimum of $7.50. The committee wants to see a study on the impact of the change and has postponed making a final recommendation to the council.

Gov. Paul LePage has opposed an increase in the state minimum wage, and said in October during a gubernatorial debate in Portland that a citywide minimum wage would be unconstitutional.

Nationally, there’s much debate about what is a “living wage” – enough income for a worker to make ends meet. Most retail workers already make more than the federal minimum wage, but not much more. In fact, more than half of retail workers make $10 or less, said David Cooper of The Economic Policy Institute.

Whatever the major players in the U.S. retail industry decide to do will have a big impact on the job market as a whole. In fact, the industry supports one in every four U.S. jobs, representing about 42 million workers.

Still, the industry has mostly shunned the idea of higher wages. The National Retail Federation, which represents some of the nation’s largest retailers, is fighting President Obama’s proposal, saying the financial burden could force them to raise prices or reduce workforce.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.