Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) spoke at Walmart’s annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday and directly told the company that it pays “starvation wages” to many of its staffers.
While appearing at the annual summit in Rogers, Arkansas, the 2020 Democratic candidate introduced a proposal on behalf of an employee to raise the company’s hourly wages to $15 and to allow for workers to be on the company's corporate board.
“Walmart is the largest private employer in America and is owned by the Walton family, the wealthiest family in the United States,” Sanders said while confronting shareholders. “And yet despite the incredible wealth of its owner, Walmart pays many of its employees starvation wages.”
“Last year, Walmart made $10 billion in profit and paid its CEO over $20 million in compensation, and it has authorized $20 billion in stock buybacks, which will benefit its wealthiest stockholders,” Sanders continued. “Surely, with all of that, Walmart can afford to pay its employees a living wage of at least $15 per hour.”
The board is set to vote on this proposal Wednesday as well as one that seeks to improve sexual-harassment protections.
Walmart raised its minimum wage to $11 an hour in 2018, which CEO Doug McMillon noted before Sanders spoke. The chief executive also called on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage and touted quarterly cash bonuses for staff, promotions of store associates, and expansion of parental leave to as much as 16 weeks.
Sanders has had success in the past in targeting a share of large American corporations' pay for hourly workers. Amazon raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour following a crusade by the Independent from Vermont. And Sanders also rallied for Disney workers before the company agreed to pay $15 an hour at Disneyland at the start of 2019.
Last year, Sanders also introduced legislation (The Stop WALMART Act) that sought to pay workers $15 an hour, allow employees up to seven days of paid sick leave and ensure compensation for CEOs is not more than 150 times the median pay for all employees.