Speaking on behalf of the many Walmart workers struggling to get by on "starvation wages" while the company's CEO rakes in more than $20 million a year, Sen. Bernie Sanders confronted the retail conglomerate's executives at their annual meeting with shareholders Wednesday and urged the company to raise its minimum wage to at least $15 an hour.
"The issue that we are dealing with today is pretty simple," Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said during a brief speech at the gathering in Rogers, Arkansas.
"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."
"Frankly," Sanders continued, "the American people are sick and tired of subsidizing the greed of some of the largest and most profitable corporations in this country."
To help reduce the "grotesque level of income and wealth inequality" at Walmart, Sanders urged the retailer to raise its minimum wage to a "living wage" of at least $15 an hour and pass a resolution that would give Walmart employees representation on the company's board.
Davis invited Sanders to introduce her proposal at the shareholder meeting.
Watch Sanders' speech:
Following his speech at the shareholder meeting, Sanders moved to a rally with Walmart workers in the parking lot of the John Q. Hammons Center, where he continued to rail against Walmart's paltry wages and applaud employees for fighting back.
"One might think that a family worth $175 billion would be able to pay its employees a living wage," Sanders said. "And yet, as you all know, the starting wage at Walmart now is $11 an hour. And people cannot make it on $11 an hour. You can't pay rent, you can't get health care, you can't feed your kid, or put gas in the car on $11 an hour."
"So all we are saying to the Walton family and Walmart: Pay your workers a living wage," Sanders added.