At an annual shareholders meeting held on Wednesday — which was attended by Sen. Bernie Sanders — Walmart CEO Doug McMillion put out a call for congress to raise the federal minimum wage. He said that the current federal wage of $7.25 was “lagging behind.”
In fact, the big box CEO began the meeting for shareholders and special guests with the call for congressional action.
“It’s time for Congress to put a thoughtful plan in place to increase the minimum wage,” McMillon said. “Any plan should take into account phasing and cost-of-living differences to avoid unintended consequences.”
Sanders, a 2020 presidential hopeful, used the meeting to knock Walmart for paying its employees “starvation wages” and called on the company to raise employee wages much like its two closest competitors, Amazon and Target, have recently enacted.
According to Forbes, the senator from Vermont was at the annual meeting as a proxy for long-time Walmart employee Cat Davis. He explained that it’s not uncommon for Walmart workers to rely on food stamp programs, Medicaid and public housing due to the retailer’s low wages.
“The American people are sick and tired of subsidizing the greed of some of the largest and most profitable corporations in this country,” Sanders said, according to CNBC.
In an April shareholders letter, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also challenged Walmart — who employs 1.5 million in the U.S. — and other retail competitors to match Amazon’s new wages and benefits.
In November, Amazon hiked their minimum wage to $15 per hour for 350,000 of its employees. He doubled down on the challenge in the letter, writing, “Do it! Better yet, go to $16 and throw the gauntlet back at us. It’s a kind of competition that will benefit everyone.”
At the time, Sanders gave credit to the online retailer for the move.
Walmart CEO Doug McMillon asked Congress to raise minimum wage while Sen. Bernie Sanders asked more from Walmart https://t.co/RmsUSd2ozT
— MariaHalkias (@MariaHalkias) June 5, 2019
In response to pressure to increase wages, Walmart has argued that it currently pays employees an average of $17.50 per hour if perks and benefits are factored into the equation.
Forbes points out that McMillon spent a majority of the meeting on the defense, stating that hourly workers were paid $800 million in bonuses in 2018. He also highlighted the college tuition reimbursement program, an adoption program that provides a $5,000 stipend for employees and a paid, six-week maternity leave program.
McMillon — who started working at Walmart as a summer employee in 1984 — also stressed that the retail giant has increased its starting wages in the past four years by 50 percent and promoted 15,000 workers last year, a majority of whom were female workers.
McMillon, who took home nearly $24 million in compensation in 2018, has been at the helm of the company since 2014.