Great Britain

Bernie Sanders accuses Walmart of paying ‘starvation wages’ in passionate defence of $15 minimum wage

The Vermont Senator attacked the company, which made a profit of more than $15bn last year, after it earlier this month announced a wage rise for 425,000 of its employees by 13 March.

But despite the increase, many of the company’s employees will reportedly continue to earn the firm’s minimum wage of $11 an hour.

Joe Biden campaigned on a promise to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 and the increase is part of his $1.9 trillion Covid stimulus package.

“Walmart pays wages so low that tens of thousands of their workers are forced to rely on public assistance in order to survive,” said Mr Sanders in a Thursday meeting of the Senate Budget Committee. 

“They are forced to rely on food stamps to feed their families, paid for by the US taxpayer; public housing to put a roof over their heads, paid for by the US taxpayer; and Medicaid to get the healthcare they need paid for by the US taxpayer.”

Mr Sanders has argued for a $15 federal minimum wage to help the issue and prevent the government from being forced to “subsidise” low-wage workers for their corporate employers.

Walmart, which is the country’s largest employer with 1.5 million employees, say that once the pay hike comes into force its average wage will be above $15 an hour.

While its minimum wage will stay at $11, Walmart says it will pay store workers who stock shelves or work on its e-commerce side $13 to $19 per hour, depending on role and location.

Mr Sanders said that every worker should receive that wage and the company should match the moves made by Costco, Amazon, Target and BestBuy.

“The simple truth is that no one in America can live with dignity on $11 or $12 an hour,” added Mr Sanders.

”And I must say that I have talked to too many workers in this country who, with tears in their eyes, tell me the struggles they have to provide for their kids on starvation wages. 

“Today, we are going to ask how Walmart can afford to pay its CEO, who declined my invitation to be with us today, over $22 million in compensation last year, but somehow cannot afford to pay its workers a living wage.”

In a letter to Mr Sanders,  Bruce Harris, Walmart’s vice president for federal government affairs, wrote that the company was providing education, health care and professional training benefits for staff.

“By removing barriers to entry, Walmart gives individuals the chance to join the workforce, and learn important and transferable job skills while earning a paycheck,” said Mr Harris.

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