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The Washington Post reports this morning that Walmart executives and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), who is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, found common ground yesterday - that America needs a higher minimum wage.

They did not, however, agree on how much higher. And not on much else.

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said yesterday at Walmart’s annual shareholders meeting that Congress should raise the $7.25/hour federal minimum wage, saying that it is “lagging behind” Walmart’s national minimum of $11/hour. “It’s clear by our actions and those of other companies that the federal minimum wage is . . . too low,” McMillon said. “It’s time for Congress to put a thoughtful plan in place to increase the minimum wage.”

Sanders, who was invited to the meeting by Walmart employees hoping to advance a proposal that would give them a seat on Walmart’s board, argued that Walmart ought to raise its minimum wage of $15/hour, which he said already is being paid by the likes of Costco and Amazon.

“Despite the incredible wealth of its owner, Walmart pays many of its employees starvation wages,” Sanders said. “Surely Walmart can afford to pay its employees a living wage of at least $15 an hour.”

The Post writes that “Sanders has long argued that the nation’s largest private employer should be doing more for its 1.5 million U.S. workers. Last fall, he introduced the Stop Walmart Act, which would prohibit corporations from buying back their own stock — which drives up share prices and ultimately benefits shareholders — unless they pay workers at least $15 an hour, offer seven days of paid sick leave and limit executive pay.”
KC's View:
We have a story below about how tech companies are going to be enduring greater regulatory scrutiny, but this story certainly is a reminder of the fact that Walmart will continue to be a lightning rod for politicians of a certain stripe. The extent of the examination that Walmart will get - cursory or proctological - all depends on how elections go.

Two quick thoughts, if I may.

While I do think that retailers traditionally have undervalued the importance of front line employees who often determine the effectiveness of a shopping environment, and should pay them more, I cannot imagine that there many out there who are spending $7.25/hour on workers. There are a lot of states with higher minimums, plus the high demand and low supply of workers mean if you want employees, you have to pay more. (If you’re paying your store employees $7.25/hour, you probably have crappy customer service and you’re whining about how unfair competition is.)

While I understand why Walmart wouldn’t want someone from the rank and file on the board, I think it might be well-served to have such a person in on the decision-making process. It might get a different perspective, and maybe some understanding from labor about the issues with which it deals on a daily basis.