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Walmart Worker: Why Did the Waltons Get $8 Billion in Subsidies While I Had to Pay Taxes?

Walmart workers deliver a message about spreading the wealth.
 
 
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Photo Credit: OUR Walmart

 

While millions of working- and middle-class Americans pay taxes each year, the richest family in the world—the Waltons—received nearly $8 billion in tax breaks last year, according to a new report by Americans for Tax Fairness, a campaign fighting for progressive tax reform.

That’s why Walmart worker Richard Reynoso and his fellow co-workers decided to bring the $7.8 billion tax bill to Walmart Chairman Rob Walton’s doorstep on Tuesday. Reynoso traveled from his home in Southern California to Phoenix, Arizona to bring this unfairness to light.

“We’re just trying to get him to hear us as workers that that kind of money — it shouldn’t just all go to him,” Reynoso said. “He should spread the wealth… and give back to the workers who are struggling.”

The report stated that in 2013, Walmart received about $6.2 billion in federal taxpayer subsidies because its employee wages are so low. Many employees, in turn, are forced to rely on healthcare, food stamps and other taxpayer-funded programs. The corporation then further evaded $1 billion through tax breaks and loopholes. The Walton family, in addition, avoided about $607 million of taxes on their Walmart dividends.

The action was part of OUR Walmart, an organization of Walmart employees demanding respect in their workplace. Reynoso, who has been working at Walmart for three years, said he joined OUR Walmart eight months after working for the corporation when he realized what it’s really like working there.

At first, orientation “makes you feel so valued as a worker.” Reynoso said. “They throw all these Sam Walton quotes at you like … ‘We’re a Walmart family. We’re respected,’ ‘You can succeed here. You can make a career out of this if you put in your all.’”

But after giving it his all, he shortly realized that was not the case. A few months after he started, Reynoso was disciplined for clocking out for lunch a minute after working five hours straight. Labor law in California states that employees may not work more than five hours straight without a lunch break. Reynoso said he was late because his manager had asked him to do a favor. It took a year for that disciplinary action to clear from his profile, which restricted him from moving up in the workplace.

Reynoso, who makes $10 an hour, but works only about 24 to 32 hours a week, was excited at first about Walmart’s health plans. He enrolled in one and went for a checkup and X-ray he had been putting off. But when he received the huge bill, he realized his health insurance hardly covered anything. He was forced to trade in his car in order to pay the bill off. He now receives Medi-Cal, state-funded health insurance. 

Reynoso said that while he struggles financially, he plans on continuing to fight back against Walmart.

“If it wasn’t for family members helping me out, I don’t know what food I would have eaten for the past few years,” he said. “I know I’m not the only one working hard and paying my taxes the right way. And having someone who makes all these billions of dollars and pay, if anything, less than what I’m paying in taxes isn’t right.”

Alyssa Figueroa is an associate editor at AlterNet. 

 
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