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Bernie Sanders Targets Walmart With Latest Anti-Corporate Crusade

After taking on Amazon, the democratic socialist has a new target: Walmart.

Christopher Dilts/Sipa USA/NewscomChristopher Dilts/Sipa USA/Newscom

A little more than two months after sponsoring a bill meant to pressure Amazon to raise wages, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) has a new target: Walmart.

Sanders introduced The Stop Welfare for Any Large Monopoly Amassing Revenue from Taxpayers (WALMART) Act today. The bill's goal is to force Walmart, the world's largest retailer, to pay each of its U.S. employees at least $15 an hour. Rep. Ro Khanna (D–Calif.) released a companion bill in the House.

While the WALMART Act is aimed at Walmart, it would also affect every company with more than 500 workers. Such employers would not be able to buy back their own stock unless they raise the minimum wage to $15, give employees "up to 7 days of paid sick leave to be used to care for themselves or a family member," and prohibit their CEOs from earning "more than 150 times the median pay of all employees," according to the bill's summary.

Walmart, which the summary claims has plans to "buy back $20 billion of its own stock over a two-year period," would likely be in violation of each of those three tenets. The median Walmart worker makes just $19,000 a year, CNN reports, while CEO Doug McMillon earned $22.8 million last fiscal year. Walmart's minimum starting wage, meanwhile, is currently $11 an hour. Finally, while the company did implement a paid sick leave program in February for workers in states with sick leave laws on the books, seven full days is not a company-wide policy.

"The American people understand that there is something totally absurd that you have large profitable corporations who make billions of dollars a year in profit who pay their workers starvations wages," Sanders said, according to The Daily Beast. "While at the same time providing their CEOs with very, very high compensation packages," the democratic socialist senator added, while calling Walmart the "poster child" for "corporate greed" in America.

Walmart says that's not true. "We have increased our starting wages by more than 50 percent in the last three years while also adding new benefits like paid time off, advanced job training, paid family leave and college for $1 a day," the company said in a statement to CNN. "In addition, our associates continue to earn quarterly cash bonuses—more than $625 million last year alone."

Walmart is just Sanders' latest corporate target. As Reason's Zuri Davis noted, the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies (BEZOS) Act, which he introduced in September, would require companies with more than 500 employees to fully pay for the government benefits received by any of their workers.

That bill, like the one he introduced today, has virtually no chance of passing, especially in the majority Republican Senate. That's not to say The Stop WALMART Act won't make an impact. In October, Amazon said it was raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour for all U.S. workers. I pointed out at the time that it was unclear whether the move was supposed to silence Amazon's critics (particularly Sanders), or if it was a market-based response to a falling unemployment rate. It's not inconceivable that Walmart, like Amazon, could raise wages in the days to come.

Whether Walmart raises wages, the arguments behind the bill are wrongheaded.

"Preventing investors from buying back shares would essentially trap capital within the very firms that don't need it, which will hurt wages and productivity in the long run," Samuel Hammond, director of poverty and welfare policy at the libertarian-leaning Niskanen Center, told The Washington Post. "This is the latest in the worrying trend of politicians threatening specific companies with ruinous regulations in order to win short term concessions."

Even if the bill doesn't become law (and it probably won't), it's troubling that Sanders is trying to force a private company to pay its workers more. As Reason.tv's John Stossel explains, mandatory higher minimum wages might help existing employees, but they can also prevent would-be workers from getting their foot in the door.

Walmart and Amazon can both raise their respective minimum wages if they so desire. But politicians like Sanders shouldn't be forcing them to do so.

Photo Credit: Christopher Dilts/Sipa USA/Newscom

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  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Wow, I thought Walmart was all mid 2000s. I thought everyone had moved on to Amazon.

  • My Dog Bites Better Than Yours||

    The AMAZON Act will never be proposed.

    It's way too hard to work a Z-word into a catchy acronym.

  • Jerry B.||

    Stop Amazon Making a Zillion on Nothing.

  • Don't look at me!||

    $15 / hour won't buy you a nice McMansion and a beemer. Why aim so low?

  • Curly4||

    In many areas a $15/hour job will maybe get a person up to the poverty level once state and local taxes is deducted.

  • creech||

    So, if passed, it wouldn't apply because Walmart isn't a monopoly? And how does this square with "equal protection?"
    Sanders should be impeached for merely suggesting unConstitutional legislation if that is the new standard for impeaching, say, the President.

  • Mickey Rat||

    I think the WalMart board will be surprised at the news that they are a monopoly and have no competition.

    In other news, Bernie Sanders is a grandstanding moron.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    They're not even the dominant company in one of the major retail fields.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    *SMDH*

  • Sigivald||

    So, a laundry list of stupid talking points and obsessions of the Progressive left?

    ("CEO pay!!!! Buybacks!!!")

  • Here for the outrage||

    Be nice to socialists guys, it's not like they're trying to take down capitalism or anything

  • JWatts||

    And it's not like they've ever lashed out in anger at other groups before .....

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    They could zero out the compensation packages for all of the CXOs and distribute that money evenly across their hourly employees, and the raise for those employees would be less than $0.25/hour. High CEO compensation is NOT preventing hourly employees from getting $15/hour.

  • Sevo||

    And cutting the defense budget to zero wouldn't begin to balance the budget, but dimbulb lefties really don't care.

  • Sevo||

    "The Stop Welfare for Any Large Monopoly Amassing Revenue from Taxpayers (WALMART) Act today."

    How *cute*!
    I'd suggest we propose AS(b)S: Assholes Should (be) Slapped.

  • Doug Heffernan||

    It would be horrible if would-be workers couldn't get their foot into the door of walmart.

    How else would they ever stand a chance at getting Doug McMillon's position.

    McMillon began his first job with Walmart unloading trucks in a distribution center during the summer. He worked his way up to being in charge of fish hooks, only taking time off to get a BA & MBA. He attributes his success to hard work and determination, but mostly to Jesus.

    A Jesus guy wouldn't take advantage of low paid workers or the government, because that is not what Jesus would do.

    McMillon is the rags to riches success story that is as American as walmart and Jesus. Bernie wants to kill off this dream for all of the future would-be McMillons. The would-be would become the never-be, and being a never-be is no way to live.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    With all do respect, if you follow Jesus's management style, a fight between Mary and Judas can get ugly.

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    I'm not aware that Jesus ever went from rags to riches or directed his disciples to do so. Nice try, though

  • Uncle Jay||

    Comrade Bernie, along with his loyal socialist lapdogs, have the right idea.
    Corporations should surrender all their power to government workers so their companies can be better run and produce higher profits.
    After all, you don't see the US government in debt now do you?

  • Mickey Rat||

    Can someone please explain to Bernie what "bill of attainder" means, and that it probably is not good to suggest that your bill is one by the cutesy acronym?

  • sharmota4zeb||

    While the WALMART Act is aimed at Walmart, it would also affect every company with more than 500 workers. Such employers would not be able to buy back their own stock unless they raise the minimum wage to $15, give employees "up to 7 days of paid sick leave to be used to care for themselves or a family member," and prohibit their CEOs from earning "more than 150 times the median pay of all employees," according to the bill's summary.

    In other words, if you're wealthy enough to own your own stand alone limited liability corporation instead of a few stocks in Walmart, you get to benefit from paying people the second tier minimum wage instead of the new standard minimum wage of $15 per hour set for any company large enough to offer stocks to ordinary people.

  • DesigNate||

    And just like that, every big corporation in america becomes 1000's of smaller companies.

  • Arizona_Guy||

    I was thinking a similar thing. You'll see a bunch of companies with 499 employees. Anyone else works via temp agency.

  • JFDeplorable||

    And just like that, WalMart does an Amazon and hires hundreds of virtual employees, shrinks their brick and mortar stores to become local distribution centers for online purchases and those $15.00 an hour workers become welfare recipients. Good job, Bernie. You've expanded the voter base of the Democratic party exponentially.

  • Dillinger||

    Burlington Coat Factory next.

  • I'm Not Sure||

    You don't necessarily need a choice of 23 different kinds of dipshit politicians when children are hungry in this country.

  • Arizona_Guy||

    How about a law that any senator with 3 homes has to let constituents live in them? Nobody needs 3 houses.

  • The gouch||

    This "OLD" GOYIM is smoking something!!!

  • Spookk||

    I think this is a great idea. Be sure to stop subsidizing big ag, and petro companies also.

  • MaleMatters||

    I wrote this some years ago regarding the gender-based class-action lawsuit against Walmart. A lot of it is relevant to this Reason piece.

    "Taking Apart the Walmart Sex-Bias Class-Action Lawsuit" http://malemattersusa.wordpres.....n-lawsuit/

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    It is however worthy of note that no Democrats have spoken out against this blatant bit of socialist, government takeover of private enterprise "idea" that Sanders proposes and has proposed before. That party is scared stiff of its own base and afraid to say anything that might alienate those who think they are entitled to everything and obligated for nothing. Reason, on the other hand, takes the spirited position that "Walmart and Amazon can both raise their respective minimum wages if they so desire. But politicians like Sanders shouldn't be forcing them to do so." Golly gee. Really? Lay the smack down, guys.

  • Rebel Scum||

    Why does TheBERN! hate poor people?

  • Rebel Scum||

    Amassing Revenue from Taxpayers

    Making money through voluntary exchange is taking revenue from taxpayers? The whole acronym doesn't make any sense.

  • Curly4||

    Why not government takeover all companies that employ 500 or more and then the government could assign each employee the salary that the government deems is correct. It could also stop the upper management from giving themselves very large golden parachutes or bonuses or other compensation. It could also ensure that there was no cultural or racial or gender bias by the assignment of workers to each job. Now the "company executives" would still have the control of the company but the decisions that they make would have to pass a review by the appropriate government over site agency before the decision is put into play.
    Now this law should also apply to companies that generate more than a predetermined revenues even if it has less than the 500 employees.

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