People lined the road near the John Q. Hammons Center on Wednesday in support of US senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who arrived to attend the Walmart Shareholders Business Meeting on Wednesday (June 5) and demand better wages for the retail giant's workers.
The ability of the potential hourly workers' representative to advocate for a wage hike and other working condition improvements with the Walmart board was the rationale for the resolution proposed by Davis, who has worked at Walmart for 11 years.
Walmart is a frequent topic for Sanders when he's out in early primary states greeting voters.
"Over the past four years, Walmart "invested an incremental $4.5 billion in pay, beyond our traditional annual wage increases, for our US store and club associates", said McMillon, who added of the federal minimum, unchanged since 2009: "$7.25 is too low".
Sanders, speaking at the meeting on behalf of a Walmart employee, read out parts of a resolution which also demands that the company raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour from the current $11.
"Americans should not be subsidizing the richest family in America and Walmart workers should not be living in poverty".
Walmart has said it pays an average of US$17.50 an hour to its hourly employees, including benefits. Walmart says such a proposal is unnecessary and says it has strong procedures and training programs in place.
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Davis invited Sanders to introduce her proposal at the shareholder meeting. Amazon did make some adjustments afterward to ensure workers were getting a raise. Retailers Target Corp and Costco Wholesale Corp also pay higher rates than Walmart.
He said the company increased starting wages by 50 percent over the last four years.
In the past, McMillon has agreed the minimum wage was too low. It's unusual for Walmart, which has weathered criticism for years over its treatment of workers, to wade into the broader national debate on wages. It now has an average hourly total compensation of more than $17.50. Already in 2019, candidates have demonstrated with striking Stop & Shop grocery store workers and McDonald's employees, as they argued for better benefits and higher pay, among other issues.
During the meeting Wednesday, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon and Chairman Doug Penner, the late founder's son-in-law, defended the company's record and highlighted the company's improvements in benefits. "And that includes your work life". He also called on Congress to increases the federal minimum hourly wage, which is now at $7.25 per hour.
"We're not ideal, but together we're listening, we're learning, and we're changing", he said.
"Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will push new policies aimed at giving workers a greater ownership stake in companies, moves the 2020 presidential candidate is pitching as a dramatic transfer of power in the US economy", writes the Washington Post.
He also said workers should be allowed to have a seat on the board. The act would require public companies to give workers the right to directly elect one-third of their company's board of directors. The only shareholders who will be given a chance to vote on the proposal, which was presented from the floor of the meeting by Sanders, are those who attended the event. The employee rally, which will feature the usual lineup of celebrities and lots of entertainment, will be held Friday at the Bud Walton arena at the University of Arkansas campus.