- U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., have introduced the Stop WALMART Act, or the Stop Welfare for Any Large Monopoly Amassing Revenue from Taxpayers Act. It is designed to prohibit large employers from buying back stock unless they up worker wages, scale back CEO compensation and give employees more paid time off.
- The Walmart act lays out a series of conditions Walmart and other large employers would have to meet to continue buying back stock. These employers would need to pay all employees — part-time employees, independent contractors and franchisee employees included — at least $15 an hour. They would also have to permit employees to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave, which can be used to care for themselves or a family member. Additionally, the employers would have to diminish CEO compensation so that it does not amount to more than 150 times the median pay of employees.
- The bill specifically calls out the Walton family, which, as Walmart's largest stockholder, owns 50% of its stock. According to the act, the Waltons have amassed a net worth of about $180 billion, making it the richest family in America. "Walmart has refused to pay its workers a living wage, resulting in costs for taxpayers of $6.2 billion for basic necessities for survival, food stamps and housing assistance. If Walmart can find $20 billion for stock buybacks to further enrich the Waltons, it can find the money to raise the pay of its workers to a living wage," Khanna said. "It's time to put workers over wealthy corporation — across our nation, one company at a time."
The Stop WALMART Act follows Sanders' "Stop BEZOS" bill, which the Senator introduced in early September. The bill proposed a tax on corporations of 500 employees or more for the full amount that its workers receive in government assistance benefits. Amazon announced it would raise its minimum wage to $15 in October; "We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead," Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said of the adjustment in a statement.
Sanders' BEZOS bill accompanied several headaches for the e-commerce giant. The company received criticism when reports claimed that thousands of its warehouse workers depend on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Amazon faced more backlash when word got out that it had appointed workers who have worked in the company's fulfillment centers to post positive statements about their experience on Twitter. Like Amazon, Walmart has also come under fire for its policies and working conditions. Last summer, a workers' advocacy group filed suit against the company for punishing workers who needed to take time off of work to care for family members. This came just weeks after Walmart was accused of discriminating against pregnant workers — an allegation the company had heard before.
Employers, especially large ones, will want to pay attention to how Walmart responds to the Stop WALMART Act, if it does at all. If it decides to boost its workers' wages, it may slash certain benefits as Amazon did after announcing the raise. In January, Walmart changed its minimum wage from $9 to $11 per hour and handed out $1,000 bonuses to long-term employees. As it announced the pay raise, however, it also closed 63 Sam's stores. Walgreens also used this strategy after introducing a pay raise package worth $100 million.