FINANCE

Bernie Sanders targets another big retailer

BY Marianne Wilson

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders has the world’s largest retailer in his sights.

The senator from Vermont introduced a bill on Thursday that would prohibit large companies from buying back stock until they pay all employees at least $15 an hour. The proposed legislation, called the “Stop WALMART Act,” is co-sponsored by Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and would also require large employers to give workers up to seven days of paid sick leave for themselves or to care for a family member, and cap executive compensation at 150 times the median employee wage. Under the bill, companies with more than 500 workers would face these new restrictions.

Sanders fired off a series on tweets this week in which he railed against the federal minimum wage – $7.25 per hour – and the Walton family. Among his tweets was one that stated: “The Walton family of Walmart is the wealthiest family in America, worth $180 billion. Middle class taxpayers should not have to subsidize Walmart’s horrendously low wages to the tune of at least $6.2 billion every year.”

In a statement, Walmart noted it has increased its starting wages by more than 50% in the last three years and currently has an average hourly total compensation of more than $17.50 an hour.

“At the same time, we’ve also added new benefits like paid time off, advanced job training, paid family leave and college for $1 a day,” the company said. “In addition, our associates continue to earn quarterly cash bonuses – more than $625 million last year alone. We have been very deliberate about our job offerings and we will continue listening to our people and investing in the training, benefits and wages that they tell us are important.”

In calling out Walmart, Sanders is employing a strategy similar to what he employed against Amazon back in September when he introduced the STOP BEZOS Act, which would have imposed a 100% tax on large employers equal to the amount that their workers receive in public assistance benefits. The bill, like this latest one, had almost no chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate. But in October, Amazon announced that it was increasing its minimum wage to $15 for all full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees across the United States.

Walmart also said it offers a wide variety of career opportunities to people of every background, low barriers to entry for a first job, and competitive wages and benefits.

“As much as a starting wage is important, it’s just that – a starting point,” the company said. “Our associates have told us that it’s about much more than just a starting wage. It’s also about benefits, scheduling, training and the opportunity to advance in their jobs – all important parts of a meaningful job experience.”

We want to be the type of company that makes it easy for people to get in the door and empowers them to grow as far and as fast as their skill and hard work will take them. Last year we promoted more than 230,000 people to jobs of greater responsibility and higher pay, and more than 75% of our store management teams started as hourly associates.”

In response, the e-commerce giant raised its minimum wage

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