Mendy Hughes, 46, has worked as a cashier for Walmart in Melbourne, Arkansas, for 11 years.
His hourly wage, after a recent increase, is $ 12.85 an hour, just 85 cents more than the starting hourly wage for new hires despite his 11 years with the company.
“You can’t pay your bills, rent, and buy groceries on $ 12 an hour. I don’t think anywhere in the United States you can do that. No way, ”said Hughes, who is a member of the campaign group United by respect. “I don’t understand how they think $ 12 an hour is enough to live on, because it isn’t at all.”
As the largest employer in the US with almost 1.6 million workers, Walmart has faced criticism for years for low salaries, working conditions, a dependence on keeping workers part-time and wage theft.
Walmart Announced In September, the company would raise the minimum wage at Sam’s Club locations from $ 11 to $ 15 an hour, but Walmart employees were left out as the parent company raised the minimum wage from $ 11 to just $ 12 an hour. for Walmart workers. Earlier this year, Walmart Announced it would raise the wages of 425,000 employees to $ 13 an hour, emphasizing that it would raise the company’s median hourly wage to more than $ 15 an hour.
But thousands of Walmart employees are still struggling to make ends meet on low pay, and many are now speaking out to agitate and campaign for a pay raise. Walmart workers who are members of United by respect for Walmart they are pushing for a minimum wage of $ 15 at the company.
Hughes, a diabetic with four children, continued to work during the pandemic, saying that working conditions had worsened due to a lack of Covid protections and customers taking their frustrations out on staff over lack of products, understaffing and Covid protocols.
“We never have enough people,” Hughes said. “We have long lines, people are backed up to clothes and sometimes wrapped, because maybe there are two or three, sometimes only one ATM, and the self-service boxes are card only so that people who cannot use them they are angry and it is difficult to deal with people now. “
In fiscal 2021, Walmart reported a profit of more than $ 13.5 billion. In February, Walmart’s board of directors approved another $ 20 billion share buyback program. From November 2020 to the end of January 2021, Walmart repurchased more than 10 million shares of the company at more than 140 dollars a share, with an expense of more than 1.400 million dollars.
Walmart is owned by the Walton family, the richest family in the world, with a Estimate net worth of about $ 238 billion. During the pandemic, Alice, Jim and Rob Walton saw their net worth increase more than $ 10 billion each.
Anna Turner worked at Walmart in Stockton, California, for more than eight years as a receptionist and customer service associate before being fired in January after having spent months complaining to Walmart, her store management, and California Osha about the poverty of Walmart. Covid responses.
Throughout her time working at Walmart, Turner noted that she made less than $ 15 an hour and was never hired for full-time hours, although she said her department was chronically understaffed.
“After eight and a half years working in the toughest area of my store, I was making just under $ 15 an hour part-time. They always cut our hours so we couldn’t get full-time and health benefits, ”said Turner, who relied on Medi-Cal for health insurance through her job at Walmart.
“I was fired for not lying in my Covid-19 health and temperature assessments. It was the last thing I told management the day things started and it eventually led to me being fired, ”said Turner, who said she was fired after an incident where she had to take a break after experiencing a stroke. anxiety when a customer threatened to assault her for trying to return an item. “That place gave me such strong panic attacks and I was mistreated on a regular basis because of the situation Walmart created by not staffing that department.”
In the first nine months of the pandemic, Walmart provided only a fraction of its Covid earnings to workers in the form of hazard pay and additional compensation, according to a analysis by the Brookings Institute. The Waltons’ net worth increased 26 times more than the cost of Covid compensation for Walmart workers, estimated at 71 cents an hour in additional wages for workers, compared to a wealth increase of $ 6.2 million per hour. for the Waltons.
A Research Brief from Human Impact Partners published In October it was found that a $ 5 an hour increase in the minimum wage for Walmart workers would improve workers’ mental and physical health, including an increased life expectancy of nearly two years.
“Walmart is the largest private employer in the country, employing more women and people of color than any other employer in the country. Therefore, they have a keen interest in setting the tone for racial equity in our country and financial security as well, ”said Sukhdip Purewal Boparai, director of research projects for Human Impact Partners and author of the report. “Walmart can really lay the groundwork and change to transform the lives of the people who work for them, especially during the pandemic as they are putting their lives at risk.”
Peter Naughton, a cashier and self-service host at Walmart in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for two years, recently saw his hourly wage rise from $ 11.55 an hour to $ 12.55 an hour with new company-wide pay increases. But Naughton said the increase didn’t go far enough and criticized Walmart for removing Quarterly MyShare bonuses for all employees, often giving workers an extra few hundred dollars every three months.
“An increase of $ 1 per hour does not help. We now have less money with a $ 1 raise than before, ”Naughton said. “Walmart could raise our wages to $ 15, $ 18, even $ 20 an hour, but they don’t want to, out of greed. Walmart is the most government-subsidized company in America. “
He said many of his co-workers have additional jobs and rely on Snap, rent subsidies and other government assistance programs to make ends meet. In many states, Walmart is the top employer of Medicaid and Snap beneficiaries.
In April 2021, Naughton had to vacate her apartment and move in with her parents because she couldn’t pay her rent and other salary bills at Walmart.
“I couldn’t pay the rent, the utilities. I couldn’t afford the food or pay for the car note and insurance at the same time, ”Naughton added. “If they increased our salary to even $ 15 an hour, that would help us have more money to spend. In fact, they could afford to do that. But they don’t want to do that. It really is about money. “
A Walmart spokesperson said in an email: “While we will not provide details on individual personnel matters, the claims made are simply not accurate. We are proud of the industry-leading health screening protocols and emergency licensing policies that we have developed and maintained during this pandemic. “
They added that MyShare bonuses were removed and incorporated into workers’ wages and claimed that thousands of people are not in public assistance programs because they work or are insured through Walmart. They characterized the Human Impact Partners study developed with United for Respect as “misleading” and “flawed.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism