Bernie Sanders accuses Walmart of paying 'starvation wages,' attacks the CEO's pay, and praises Amazon

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders accused Walmart on Wednesday of paying “starvation wages” and urged the company to increase its starting wages to $US15 an hour from $US11 an hour.
  • “Walmart can afford to pay its employees a living wage of at least $US15 an hour,” he said at the company’s shareholders meeting. “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.”
  • Before Sanders’ remarks, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon welcomed the senator to the meeting and highlighted Walmart’s measures to improve pay, training, and other benefits for its hourly workers.
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Sen. Bernie Sanders accused Walmart of paying “starvation wages” and attacked Walmart CEO Doug McMillon’s compensation in remarks on Wednesday at the company’s annual shareholders meeting.

“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,” Sanders said during about three minutes of prepared remarks at the meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas. “Frankly, the American people are sick and tired of subsidizing the greed of some of the largest and most profitable corporations in this country.”

Sanders went on to highlight the disparity between its hourly wages and executive pay. He singled out McMillon, who had taken the stage at the meeting moments earlier and whose total compensation reached nearly $US24 million last year.

Sanders said Americans are “outraged by the 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.”


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He called on Walmart to raise its starting wages to $US15 an hour and praised the company’s rivals, including Amazon, that have already raised their minimum wages to that level. Walmart last year raised its starting wages to $US11 an hour.

“Walmart can afford to pay its employees a living wage of at least $US15 an hour,” he said. “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.”

Sanders introduced a proposal on Wednesday to add hourly workers to Walmart’s corporate board. Shareholders are expected to vote on the measure later in the day.

Before Sanders’ remarks, McMillon welcomed the senator to the meeting and highlighted Walmart’s measures to improve pay, training, and other benefits for its hourly workers.

“We’ve moved up our starting wages in the US about 50% in the last four years and we continue to adjust up on a market-by-market basis to recruit and retain the talent we need,” McMillon said. “In fact over the last four years, we’ve invested an incremental $US4.5 billion in pay beyond our traditional annual wage increases for our US store and club associates.”

He also highlighted that Walmart last year paid $US793 million in quarterly cash bonuses to workers; established new training academies, education benefits, and medical benefits; and promoted 215,000 workers, 57% of whom were women.

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