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CNN Confronts Walmart Spokesperson Over Retailer’s Low Wages, Poor Working Conditions

Igor Volsky
Think Progress / News Report
Published: Wednesday 21 November 2012
“During an appearance on CNN Tuesday morning, Vice President of Communications David Tovar sought to brush aside the fact that Walmart is paying its associates salaries that are just slightly above the poverty line.”
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As Walmart workers across the country coordinate a Black Friday walkout in an effort to build awareness about the national retailer’s low wages and poor working conditions, the company is on a media offensive to downplay their associates’ concerns and reassure shoppers.

During an appearance on CNN Tuesday morning, Vice President of Communications David Tovar sought to brush aside the fact that Walmart is paying its associates salaries that are just slightly above the poverty line, even as the company reported a 9 percent increase in third-quarter net income, earning $3.63 billion. He insisted that the company has “got great associates” who are “going to do a great job for us this holiday season.”

But when host Carol Costello pressed Tovar on the growing wealth gap in America and Walmart’s role in insuring a robust middle class, he dodged the question, but not before suggesting that the store offers associates a discount to buy Walmart products (and invest their pay checks back into the company):

COSTELLO: The wage gap in this country continues to grow ever wider. you know, we hear from economists all the time, we need a strong middle class to make our overall economy stronger. Is it Walmart’s responsibility to make sure that its employees can support a strong middle-class lifestyle?

TOVAR: We’re working hard every day to provide more opportunities for associates. [...]

COSTELLO: But if a lot of them are making $15,000 a year, you can’t live a strong middle-class lifestyle on that. You just can’t. [...]

TOVAR: Our average rate is about $12.40 an hour far a full time associate. We also offer comprehensive benefit packages as low as $17 a pay period, which is very affordable and we also pay quaterly bonuses, which is something that not a lot of retailers do…. And we know that they appreciate that, they also get a 10 percent discount card. So you have to factor in all of those things when you’re looking for how we’re helping associates.

Watch it:

Walmart CEO Michael Duke has a total compensation of $18.1 million, and is the second highest paid executive in the Fortune 500. According to CNN Money, it would take more than 700 employees’ salaries to match his total compensation package.

Making Change at Walmart, the group leading Black Friday’s protest, is asking for a minimum wage of $13 an hour, more full time positions and affordable health care. Currently, the typical employee is paid $22,100 a year, slightly below the federal poverty line for a family of four (which is at $23,050 in 2012). Walmart earned $15 billion last year.

My feeling on this is that

My feeling on this is that anyone who applied for a job at WalMart had to know that WalMart's market strategy was to be the lowest cost producer. Lowest cost includes salaries. They knew what they were getting into when they applied for jobs.

My answer to these low wage

My answer to these low wage jobs. These low wage workers need a Finacial Education-
$7/hr = 14,000 per year which is below poverty.
1.Get Education and why:
2. Look for company paying at min $15/hr --auto industry
3. Average College Educated people with BS in Business or Engineering make $20/hr- 40,000 per year..anything less would be failure.
4. Move where evers the jobs are, such as North Dakota with oil Boom.

When did it become the

When did it become the responsibility of a business to manage the life of a single parent? What does a "living wage" look like? a house, two door garage and two cars? How much should a cashier or stocker make? more than a teacher? fireman?
Why don't we raise everyones salary so that prices go up and then we can pay more for things and then bitch for more pay? now that's productivity!

We live in a competitive environment... things will be off balance... including a CEO's wages costs more to attract a CEO than a Stocker putting cereal on the shelf... face reality if you want more out of life it comes with more responsibility and more sacrifice...
a teacher is responsible for your kids... a fireman risks his life...
I'm sorry I don't think paying a stocker or cashier $20 per hour is going to fix our education system or put the fire out in your house - why doesn't anyone pick on Target? Kroeger? The service industry is low pay; always has been always will be... if you want to get paid more go to school and become an engineer...
I guess we should all survive high school and get paid $50,000 per year right out of the gate... who are you people?
why don't we ever demand that the small business owner running a small downtown shop provide a $50,000 pay rate to all their workers... I know, you'll say they don't bring in $15,000,000,000 per year in revenue... key word revenue - Walmart may bring in huge revenue numbers, but I'm sure they have huge expenditures as well... and they need to perform for their investors to keep the company healthy... It's all relative... corporations are huge and they have huge influence... everyone loves the american dream... if you want it go get it... it doesn't come for free!!!
btw a union is a corporation... I have a friend that was a union official... this person made $350,000 per year supervising 3 small factories... a union is a business...
Your family is your responsibility not Walmart's, not Ford's, not Exxon's!!

Disgusting. Corporate greed

Disgusting. Corporate greed at it's finest.

Nonetheless come Friday we'll

Nonetheless come Friday we'll read about someone getting trampled to death trying to get in the door.

MNhistoryfan's picture

What does this have to do

What does this have to do with low wages and inadequate benefits when Wal-Mart is making a big profit and paying their executives exorbitant sums of money?

Carlos, you are mixing

Carlos, you are mixing "gimnasia" with "magnesia".

You were a good and dedicated worker when employed by Walmart? Good for you! Kudos! Are there workers who are less than dedicated (in Walmart and everywhere else)? Yes. That is for their management to manage. Those two facts have nothing to do with the fact that the wages that Walmart pays to its asociates are insufficient and the salaries paid to their managers are obscenely high.

Right wingers always complain about the moochers who take welfare money. Why would anybody not choose welfare over a miserly wage if one gets to put more food on the table for one's kids? Pay a decent minimum wage and people will choose to work and will feel proud about it.

Taking a job at Walmart does not mean that you have to take whatever the company does and says like letter from the Bible. If they ask you to do work that is risky you have the right to refuse, there are laws that protect you. That does not mean that you are "lazy", it means that you are not willing to fall into slavery and risk life or limb for your owner. So, taking a job at Walmart does not prevent people from asking for better paying conditions.

If you chose to be the quiet and hard-working fellow who managed to climb the ladder, good for you! Glad that with only five hours of sleep you didn't take a fall, or crashed your car into someone else's and left your family stranded with your funeral expenses. But it does not make others who are asking for better working conditions be any less worthy than yourself.

I see it this way: you have vacations and a work week with limited working hours because those before you fought for them. You chose not to fight for others or for the next generation: your right. But do not call others "lazy" just because they did not chose your selfish path.

Mr. Tovar, if all your

Mr. Tovar, if all your associates were full-time, making $12.40 per hour as a starting wage, received a much better health policy for their $17.00 per month and got a "real" discount (at least 25%) for their purchases other than groceries (groceries work on a much smaller margin so 10% is fine) then I would say you are giving your associates a fair wage & benefits package. I realize that retail stores are notorious for low wages. The problem is that you keep the majority of your associates as part-timers so their wages are far lower, no benefits and I'll bet they aren't offered a quarterly bonus. I also happen to know that your health benefit is poor, and I know cancer patients working for you who can't afford their treatments even with the health coverage. The Walmart Corporation is hardly scraping by nor have you ever had a losing quarter, to my knowledge, in the past 30 years. You also purchase almost all of your merchandise from China and similar countries (including some groceries - canned goods for instance) so you offer nothing to our country and our people by way of manufacturing jobs. The very least you can do is hire the majority of your associates as full-time employees. I realize that some people just need a part-time job so hire your part-timers from that catagory but give them the opportunity to move up to full-time if their situation changes. Please raise wages when employees have been with you for a stated period of time (it's far cheaper to keep loyal employees than it is to continually train new ones) or when an employee takes on more responsibility. (Also make sure you are giving women an equal opportunity to become managers, etc.) Please drop out of the 1% who care more about the bottom line than about the lives of their employees and the health of our economy. Become a better citizen of this great country and offer a hand up.

I worked for Walmart for

I worked for Walmart for seven years. I worked my way up to Department Manager of Electronics. When I decided to apply at Walmart I knew what to expect. I made the choice to better myself in the company to make more money. It took seven years but I left making $16.45 and hour from starting at $7.25. I even had a few thousand from stocks and profit sharing. In all of those years I never cried for more money and better benefits. I worked longer hours when I could and overnight if they needed me too. Sometimes with five hours sleep. I have no regrets working for Walmart. They thought I was good enough to work for them so I got hired.
My wife has been working in Walmart for twelve years now. She said so much has changed since she started. The associates want more money but they are now more lazy. They spend more time looking at the schedule and complaining as to why is that person off two days in a row? Why is that person starting earlier? When they punch back in from lunch or break, they go window shopping or do some shopping.
Walmart may have some issues, but very many of the associates are just as bad if not worse. If they are not happy, they should leave. I'm sure there are others that would love their spot.

MNhistoryfan's picture

Anecdotal information is no

Anecdotal information is no information. Your sad story does not move me. You are a white male, I'm quite sure.
Supply us the levels of production. Production has been going up for American workers but their pay has not.
You want them to be happy while making low wages and with few benefits, especially women, especially part time.
The fact is, most people do not move up and most people cannot live on what they make from a single job, and most people do not have opportunities as you apparently did. Opportunities are good levels of education for everyone, not just the students who happen to live in prosperous communities, opportunity to make more money that doesn't cost a lot of money or expertise or time or guts. .. Well, I could go on but I won't because you need to educate yourself before you start throwing out Horatio Alger stories on your level.

Carlos, you were fortunate.

Carlos, you were fortunate. The company wide numbers do not reflect the story you shared...and not for women, especially.

I urge you to show a little compassion for people who feel compelled to work at a heartless firm. If that doesn't move you, watch the documentary on WalMart and learn of the costs that are passed on to the taxpayers. You might find a valid and very different view of WalMart.

Right, they should just

Right, they should just 'leave' and be unemployed with no benefits and hope Walmart has driven out all the other competing businesses. Your 'solution' needs a lot of work.

. . . $12.40 an hour for

. . . $12.40 an hour for full time
. . . . . . benefit packages as low as $17 a pay period.
. . . . . . . . they also get a 10 percent discount card..
WOW - a good spin doctor
.....only left off the number of ......full time... v.... part time......
I'm sorry I would phrase it differently but CENSORS do not approve my language....and I couldn't / can't see his feet to see what kind of boots he was wearing. . .
it would take more than 700 employees’ salaries to match compensation package.?????????
B O Y C O T T ....

Sadly, many of the working

Sadly, many of the working poor would love to join in the protest but just cannot financially cannot afford to shop any place else. They are already boycotting the Black Friday deals because they don't have money to buy these luxury goods, but that is not Walmart's bread and butter (no pun intended). Their money comes on groceries and everyday staples that people must have to survive.

But sadly, with so many Americans angry with Congress' behaviour, what happened this past election? Thirty eight (38) members of the House were sent packing. Eight (8) were sent packing in the Senate. How in hell can we expect change if we keep sending the same people back to DC?

The next 4 years will bring more of the same. The Walmarts (corpeople) and the 1% will get richer and everyone else will get poorer.

I propose that anyone who cares about this country boycott commercialised Holy Days this year. Don't buy anything that cannot be eaten, worn, or slept under. If it is not food, shelter, or basic health don't buy it. And don't invest that "saved" money in CD's, money markets or stocks. Instead, invest in your fellow man. That has the highest rate of return next to educating yourself and your fellow man.

Another alternative is to

Another alternative is to spend your consumer dollars with LOCAL small businesses. Various studies have shown that 70% of every dollar spent at a locally owned small business stays in the community. For the large franchises, box stores only abou 20-25% (because their insurance, suppliers, accountants, etc are national accounts - not other local small businesses).
So "Vote" for your local economy with your own dollars. Don't go to Home Depot, Lowes, go to the locally owned hardware store or lumber yard. Same for other consumer goods. Help us keep a mainstreet.

Question for Mr. Corporate

Question for Mr. Corporate Hack,
How do you put food on the table, put a roof over your families head, automobile upkeep, clothing, and utilities on 12.oo an hour? And would you be able to do such a thing?
Here is a second question, WalMart offers a stock purchase plan to their employees. So what. The majority of their workers don't get any of those benefits because the majority of their employees are part time, and they don't get paid enough to pay rent much less put money into a stock purchase plan. And how does the full time worker making about 20,000 a year afford to support his family and put money into a company stock plan?
And finally, for the CEO: Mr. CEO, you are making 18 million dollars a year in salary and bonuses, or about 1.5 million dollars a month. So tell me, what do you do with your earnings after January? How do you spend 1.5 million dollars a month? What could you possibly spend that amount of money on in one month? Another Rolls Royce? Another 20 room mansion in LaJolla? What could you spend it on?

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