Sanders Slams Walmart Board: Pays Employees ‘Starvation’ Wages, CEO Gets $20 Million

FILE - In this June 2, 2019, file photo Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during the 2019 California Democratic Party State Organizing Convention in San Francisco. Sanders is lambasting Walmart’s board including its CEO for paying its workers what he describes as “starvation wages” and introduced a …
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) took a slight detour on the presidential campaign trail to slam Walmart at its annual shareholders meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas, on Wednesday for paying its employees what he described as “starvation” wages while the Walton family is “the richest family in America” and pays its CEO $20 million in compensation.

(Sanders remarks begin at approximately 7:40)

Sanders was allowed to attend the meeting as a proxy for Cat Davis, a Walmart employee, where he read a resolution he asked the board of directors to pass that would require “hourly associates” to be nominated for seats on the board.

Resolved shareholders of Walmart urge the board to adopt the policy of promoting significant representation of employee perspectives among corporate decision makers by requiring that the initial list of candidates from which new nominees are chosen by the nominating governance committee include hourly associates. The policy should provide that any third party consultant asked to furnish an additional list would be requested to include such candidates.

Then Sanders challenged the board about its pay policies that he said leave many employees dependent on government welfare. He said:

Madam chair, the issue we are dealing with today is pretty simple. Walmart is the largest private employer in America and is owned by the Walton family, the wealthiest family in the United States, worth approximately $175 billion, and yet despite the incredible wealth of its owne, Walmart pays many of its employees starvation wages. Wages that are so low that many of these employees are forced to rely on government programs like food stamps, Medicaid and public housing in order to survive.

Frankly, the American people are sick and tired of subsidizing the greed of some of the largest and most profitable corporations in this country. They are also outraged by the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality in America as demonstrated by the CEO of Walmart making a thousand times more than the average Walmart employee.

Last year Walmart made nearly $10 billion in profit. It paid its CEO over $20 million in compensation and it has authorized $20 billion in stock buybacks, which will benefit its wealthiest stockholders.

Surely, with all of that Walmart can afford to pay its employees a living wage of at least $15 an hour. And that is not a radical idea because many of Walmart’s major competitors like Amazon, Costco and Target have already moved in that direction.

Further, Walmart should give a voice to its workers by allowing them seats on the board of directors.The concerns of workers, not just stockholders, should be part of board decisions.

Sanders then told the board to “do the right thing” by passing the resolution.

“Today with the passage of this resolution, Walmart can strike a blow against corporate greed and a grotesque level of income and wealth inequality that exists in our country,” Sanders said. “Please do the right thing. Please pass this resolution.”

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