Bernie Sanders’ Wednesday campaign stop was a little different this week. Instead of speaking to crowds of his supporters, Sanders appeared at Walmart’s annual shareholder meeting to confront the company’s executives and urge them to take better care of their workers.
The presidential hopeful spoke to shareholders about giving workers representation on the company’s board as well as paying workers a living wage.
“Frankly, the American people are sick and tired of subsidizing the greed of some of the largest and most profitable corporations in this country,” Sanders said.
Walmart’s CEO currently brings in over $20 million a year while the company’s workers get paid so little many of them have to rely on public assistance
“Walmart is the largest private employer in America and is owned by the Walton family, the wealthiest family in the United States,” said Sanders. “And yet, despite the incredible wealth of its owner, Walmart pays many of its employees starvation wages—wages that are so low that many of these employees are forced to rely on government programs like food stamps, Medicaid, and public housing in order to survive.”
Sanders presented a proposal as a proxy for a Walmart employee, Cat Davis, that would require that the board include hourly associates on its lists of potential new members. He also asked the workers get paid at least $15 an hour.
Referring to the “grotesque level of income and wealth inequality,” Sanders said “Surely, with all of that, Walmart can afford to pay its employees a living wage of at least $15 an hour. And that is not a radical idea, because many of Walmart’s major competitors like Amazon, Costco and Target have already moved in that direction.”
The board refused the proposal quickly. “While we don’t support this particular proposal, the importance of listening to and investing in our associates was reflected in Doug’s remarks and you’ll hear more about it later in the meeting,” said Rachel Brand, Walmart’s executive vice president of global governance, chief legal officer and corporate secretary.
Prior to attenting the meeting, Sanders turned over his Twitter account to Walmart employees.
Walmart workers were able to use Sanders’ immense social media following to share their stories.