Last night, Bloomberg LP President Dan Doctoroff asked Walmart CEO Mike Duke about how he paid employees.
“New York is claiming that wages, you know, aren’t adequate for that middle-class or emerging middle-class,” Doctoroff said at an event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations.
Duke responded that he pays his 2.2 million employees competitive wages. The average full-time, hourly U.S. associate makes $12.57 an hour, according to Walmart.
Walmart employs 1.4 million people in the U.S.
Walmart workers have been striking for better pay, healthcare benefits and sick days. As Duke spoke at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York, a crowd of protesters stood outside criticising his treatment of employees.
Duke said that retail is a lower-margin industry in general, and that Walmart’s wages are competitive.
“Retailing is the most competitive industry out there, and we do pay competitive wages,” Duke said. “Last year we promoted 165,000 people from entry-level to managerial positions.”
Duke added that Walmart provides health insurance to 1 million people in the United States.
But he said he’s used to all the criticism.
“With more success comes more responsibility and expectations from the public,” Duke said. “So I’m thrilled to be in a position where people expect more of me.”
Duke has been CEO since February 2009. According to Forbes, his compensation was $18.7 million last year.
“If you look at what is the actual operating margin of businesses, retailing tends to be — as an industry, tends to be a lower margin,” Duke said. “And I think a lot of that is because of the intense competition.”
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