News & Politics

Walmart Spokesman Points to Princely 10% Discount Card in Response to Criticism Over Low Worker Pay

A spokesman for Walmart was pressed hard by CNN anchor Carol Costello on Walmart’s labor practices and the ability of its workers to live a middle-class lifestyle.

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As Black Friday approaches, and with it the threat of nationwide walkouts by workers at Walmart, the corporate shopping store is going on a public relations offensive. CNN was one stop for a Walmart spokesman, but he was pressed hard by anchor Carol Costello on Walmart’s labor practices (watch it at the bottom of this article).

Costello interviewed Walmart spokesman David Tovar on the current battle raging between workers and Walmart. Workers are demanding the right to organize, better pay and better health care, but Walmart is pushing back.

Tovar, the Vice President of Communications for the company, dismissed the demands for better pay and work conditions as just “a few people” speaking out. “It’s smoke and mirrors,” said Tovar. “The vast majority of our associates like working at Walmart.”

Costello didn’t just let Tovar slide away easily, though. She asked, “why not at least negotiate with [workers]” so they can have better living conditions?”

She continued on the same tack, asking: “Is it Walmart’s responsibility to make sure that its employees can support a strong middle-class lifestyle?” Tovar replied by stating that “We’re working hard every day to provide more opportunities for associates.”

Costello then noted that Walmart workers only make about $15,000 a year--far off from a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle. Tovar’s response was to say “our average rate is about $12.40 an hour for a full time associate...And we know that they appreciate that, they also get a 10 percent discount card.”

Think Progress notes the stakes of laborers’ fight with Walmart. “Walmart CEO Michael Duke has a total compensation of $18.1 million, and is the second highest paid executive in the Fortune 500,” the liberal blog writes. On the other hand, “Making Change at Walmart, the group leading Black Friday’s protest, is asking for a minimum wage of $13 an hour, more full time positions and affordable health care. Currently, the typical employee is paid $22,100 a year, slightly below the federal poverty line for a family of four (which is at $23,050 in 2012). Walmart earned $15 billion last year.”

Watch the CNN clip here, via Think Progress:

Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.