ROGERS (KFSM) — People lined the road near the John Q. Hammons Center on Wednesday in support of U.S. senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who arrived to attend the Walmart Shareholders Business Meeting on Wednesday (June 5) and demand better wages for the retail giant’s workers.
Sanders submitted his proposal during the meeting, calling on Walmart to increase the minimum wage for its workers and to allow hourly workers to have a representative on the company board.
Sanders said that Walmart paid “starvation wages” to some of its employees, and that many had to rely on government programs, such as SNAP benefits.
“Frankly, the American people are sick and tired of subsidizing the greed of some of the largest and most profitable corporations in this country,” he said. “They are also outraged by grotesque level of income and wealth inequality in America, as demonstrated by the CEO of Walmart making 1,000 times more than the average Walmart employee.”
He also said workers should be allowed to have a seat on the board.
With adoption of the proposal, Sanders said, “Walmart can strike a blow against corporate greed and a grotesque level of income and wealth inequality that exists in this country.”
Rachel Brand, executive vice president of Global Governance and Corporate Secretary, thanked Sanders for his proposal before stating that Walmart didn’t support it. She countered by saying that President and CEO Doug McMillon had touched on the wage increase and bonus investments Walmart has already made for its workers.
Sanders tweeted about the wage proposal earlier in the day.
Sanders tweeted that the owners of Walmart — the Waltons — earn $25,000 a minute, while their average employees earn $25,000 a year.
“My message to the Waltons is simple: Pay your employees a living wage of $15 an hour!” Sanders says.
Walmart counters Sanders’ criticism by pointing to investments employees that include expanded paid time off, increased wages and more benefits.
“Since the beginning, a cornerstone of Walmart’s culture has been engaging frontline associates in the management of the company, and we’re proud of the fact that 75% of our U.S. management associates began their career as frontline hourly associates,” the company said.
Walmart, the United States’ largest private employer, has been criticized for its $11 minimum wage — including by its rival Amazon. But Walmart said it has raised its starting wages in the United States by more than 50% over the past four years. Including benefits and bonuses, the average wage for a full-time, hourly worker at Walmart is $14.26 an hour. Walmart’s department managers can also earn up to $24.70 per hour.
Walmart employs more than 1.5 million workers in the United States.