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Bernie Sanders Dangles a New Incentive to Get Walmart to Pay $15 Minimum Wage: Stock Buybacks

November 15, 2018, 12:38 PM UTC

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is announcing a bill on Thursday that would force big companies to pay their lowest-earning workers before shareholders. The details echo his campaign to get Amazon to pay its workers at least $15 an hour, but this time the main target is Walmart, the Washington Post reports.

The new legislation, dubbed the “Stop Walmart Act,” would incentivize corporations to pay a minimum wage of $15 an hour, provide workers seven days of sick leave, and cap CEO compensation at 150 times the median employee pay by barring stock buybacks among firms that fail to meet those criteria. A company’s repurchasing of its own shares is a practice that benefits shareholders.

“Amazon did the right thing by raising their minimum wage to $15 an hour. Walmart can and must do the same,” Sanders told the Post.

In response, Walmart said that it has raised pay over the last three years and that its average—but not starting—hourly wage is $17.50, including benefits. Starting pay at Walmart is $11 an hour, not including benefits.

Earlier this year, Sanders also introduced legislation that would make large employers pay taxes equivalent to the amount the federal government subsidizes their workers. Low-paid workers are eligible for federal aid, such as food stamps, to the tune of $150 billion a year. Amazon bumped its starting pay, though it also took away some stock benefits.

Given the Republican majority in the Senate, Sanders’ new bill is more likely to define his own brand than change any laws.