Sanders rolls out bill aimed at getting Walmart to raise wages
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) on Thursday introduced legislation aimed at getting Walmart to pay its employees at least $15 an hour — the latest effort from progressives to push large companies to increase their wages and benefits.
Under the bill, called the Stop WALMART Act, large companies would not be able to buy back their own stock unless they had a minimum hourly wage of $15 for all employees, allowed employees to earn up to 7 days of paid sick leave and ensured that compensation for the company's CEO or highest-paid employee could be no more than 150 times the median pay for employees.
In a call with reporters, Sanders called Walmart the "poster child" for corporate greed. Sanders added that the Walton family, the company's largest shareholder, has become very wealthy, while many Walmart employees reportedly struggle to afford basic necessities.
"The bottom line to me is that the taxpayers of this country should not have to subsidize the Walton family, the wealthiest family in America," said Sanders, a possible 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. "The Walton family must pay their employees a living wage, and that living wage is at least $15 an hour."
Walmart said in a statement that the company has increased its wages and benefits in recent years.
“We have increased our starting wages by more than 50 percent in the last three years and currently have an average hourly total compensation of more than $17.50 an hour," the company said, adding that it had added new benefits, including paid time off, "advanced job training," paid family leave and educational benefits.
"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,” the company said.
This isn't the first time that Sanders and Khanna have pushed to get a large company to raise its minimum wage.
In September, Sanders introduced legislation targeting Amazon that would require large companies to pay a tax on the government benefits its workers receive. Khanna previously had introduced similar legislation. Subsequently, Amazon announced that it would raise its minimum wageto $15 per hour.
"I am confident because of the workers and the mobilization that Walmart eventually will do the right thing like Amazon has, like Disney has and move to $15," Khanna said.
Sanders and Khanna have worked on legislation to raise the federal minimum wage, which Sanders said has been getting an increasing amount of support. The Vermont senator also noted that a growing number of cities and states are passing legislation to raise their minimum wages.