An East Bay congressman blasted corporate giant Walmart on Wednesday for paying its workers so little, and essentially subsidizing its bottom line with taxpayer dollars.
“Walmart is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, yet they pay such low wages that many of its workers are unable to provide for their families. This is wrong,” Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, said in a news release. “When workers win, their families win, and we all win. If big corporations like Walmart paid their workers higher wages, families could live better. And federal taxpayers would not have to foot the bill to help them keep their heads above water.”
Miller, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, joined with another House Democrat and Walmart employees for a Capitol Hill forum Wednesday taking the company to task.
The effort was in reaction to a presentation Walmart President & CEO Bill Simon made last month at the Goldman Sachs 2013 Annual Global Retailing Conference, in which he acknowledged that more than 475,000 associates earned more than $25,000 last year. Walmart employs 1.3 million associates in the United States, and had posted a $17 billion net profit for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31.
The lawmakers and Walmart workers renewed their calls Wednesday for Walmart to improve working conditions, stop retaliation against those who speak out, and increase hours to ensure workers earn a minimum of $25,000 a year for full-time work. Doing so, they say, would let workers cover the basics and help contribute to the economy.
“I work hard, and I want to be able to support my family and earn enough so I don’t have to rely on public assistance to survive,” Anthony Goytia, an overnight stocker at the Walmart in Duarte (Los Angeles County), said in the news release. Goytia works full-time and makes less than $16,000 a year, relying on food stamps and Medi-Cal to keep his family fed and cared for.
“These workers deserve safe workplaces and the right to speak out for their workplace rights without risking retaliation or being fired,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. “It’s time that Walmart listen to their workers who are here to demand what all Americans want: fair pay, fair rules and fair treatment.”
A report prepared by Miller’s committee staff earlier this year calculated that just one Walmart store’s employees must rely on $900,000 in taxpayer-funded supports, a number that’s expected to rise as more workers apply Medicaid because they are ineligible for Walmart healthcare plans.
Walmart has 264 stores employing 81,247 associates in California, according to the company’s website. Regular, full-time (34 hours per week or more) associates in California earn an average hourly wage of $13.03 – that’s $23,037.04 per year for a 34-hour work week, or $27,102.40 per year for a 40-hour work week.