Walmart employees across the country have banned together to build awareness of the national retailer’s alleged low wages and poor working conditions. On Black Friday, employees at various Walmart locations protested against the company’s treatment of their employees. One woman held a sign that read, “Walmart: #1 in Private Employees Needing Medicaid and Food Stamps.”
In light of the controversy, Walmart’s Vice President of Communications David Tovar tried to brush aside the fact that Walmart is paying its associates annual and hourly salaries that are just slightly above the national poverty line. The low pay-rate is questionable, since the company reported a 9 percent increased in third-quarter net income, earning $3.63 billion.
During a CNN appearance, Tovar stated that the company has “got great associates” who are “going to do a great job for us this holiday season.”
But do Walmart employees feel like they’ve got a great employer?
When CNN host Carol Costello pressed Tovar on the growing wealth gap in America and “Walmart’s role in insuring a robust middle class,” Tovar tried to dodge the question:
COSTELLO: The wage gap in this country continues to grow ever wider. you know, we hear from economists all the time, we need a strong middle class to make our overall economy stronger. Is it Walmart’s responsibility to make sure that its employees can support a strong middle-class lifestyle?
TOVAR: We’re working hard every day to provide more opportunities for associates. […]
COSTELLO: But if a lot of them are making $15,000 a year, you can’t live a strong middle-class lifestyle on that. You just can’t. […]
TOVAR: Our average rate is about $12.40 an hour far a full time associate. We also offer comprehensive benefit packages as low as $17 a pay period, which is very affordable and we also pay quaterly bonuses, which is something that not a lot of retailers do…. And we know that they appreciate that, they also get a 10 percent discount card. So you have to factor in all of those things when you’re looking for how we’re helping associates.
The company also reportedly downplayed the Black Friday walkout, organized by store employees. The company’s CEO Bill Simon reported that “less than 50 associates participated in the protest nationwide.” However, Janna Pea, employee and protest organizer at the Dallas Walmart, said that there were more than 40 employees at her store alone. Pea noted that even patrons were siding with the employees, refusing to enter the store for their Black Friday deals.
Walmart CEO Michael Duke has a total compensation of $18.1 million, and is the second highest paid executive in the Fortune 500. A full-time Walmart associate makes just $15,500 a year, slightly above the federal poverty line for a family of two (which is at $15,130).
It would take more than 700 employees’ salaries to match Walmart CEO’s total compensation package.
Watch Tovar’s interview with Costello below: