While watching TV the other night, I saw a commercial featuring a man perched atop the front of a humble desk while donning a smart sweater, hands folded peacefully in front of him, backlit by soft lighting, with a smile that seemed desperate to proclaim, “let’s be friends.” It was somewhat reminiscent of an old episode of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” (save for the lack of sincerity), which I have no doubt was the goal of the high-priced team of marketing experts hired to paint the desired portrait of unity, equality and we’re-all-in-this togetherness. I wasn’t falling for it. When I realized it was a commercial for Walmart featuring President and CEO of the company Doug McMillon, I couldn’t help but let out a chuckle. And not the funny “ha-ha” kind.
In the commercial, McMillon goes on about how important and valued each Walmart worker is; how they are the glue that holds the company together and without them, the business could not succeed. He further adds because of the reasons listed, the corporate giant would be raising wages for all its employees to show the company’s appreciation for their hard work and dedication. This is, of course, in response to the fact that the majority of Walmart workers do not make anywhere near a livable wage, even when they’ve worked extended hours of overtime (often without a choice) to simply make ends meet. In 2016, McMillon made $19,404, 042. The average hourly rate for a Walmart cashier is $9.17. At this rate, based on a standard 40-hour work week, these cashiers are averaging about $17,606.40 per year before taxes. Am I the only one who finds this more than a little disturbing?
Raising the minimum wage in this country has been a hot button issue for some time now. I’m not sure I understand why anyone would be against it, but there are plenty who strongly oppose the idea. These are often some of the same folks who take issue with people receiving “government handouts” such as food stamps, supplemental monetary support and any other type of assistance that could be classified as welfare. Mind you, I did not say all those who disagree with a minimum wage increase also oppose governmental aid for the needy, I said some of, just so we’re clear. The question still remains: how are these people supposed to maintain any quality of life if they can’t afford to put food on the table, pay their bills, take a vacation, and pay for necessary repairs that pop up unexpectedly, especially after having worked a full week (and then some)? While Walmart is patting itself on the back for pledging to raise their wages (to a base rate of $10 per hour – still not a livable wage), their workers remain firmly lodged well below the nation’s poverty line. I just hope McMillon is able to “get by” like his employees on his salary. You know, because “we’re all in this together!”
In 2014 in the state of Ohio alone, it is estimated an average 14,500 Walmart employees and their families received food stamps, otherwise known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, which at the time, accounted for around 15 percent of the company’s labor force in the state. Walmart brings in billions (let me repeat that: BILLIONS) of dollars of SNAP revenue each year. They are also considered the top company in the country with the most employees receiving such benefits. How does it make sense that a person cannot even afford to shop where they work (even with their employee discount)?
I hate to break this to you Mr. McMillon, but what you’re doing isn’t working, and your own employees aren’t buying what you’re selling (because they can’t afford to.) The company slogan is “Save Money. Live Better.” Is this supposed to be some sort of sick joke? Because if it is, I’m not laughing. I doubt the millions of others affected by your immoral, misguided and disgraceful business practices are either.
At least have the decency to tell the truth: as long as you’re making YOUR $20 mil per year, you couldn’t care less about the financial state of your employees. It’s not the workers who are poor, it’s you and the company you run. Character counts a whole lot more than cash.