A food drive launched by the Dairy Department Manager of an Oklahoma Walmart to assist two employees has again spotlighted the impact of the low wages paid by the nation’s largest employer and, with total revenues of $476 billion, most profitable corporation. Michele Simon, a public health lawyer at Eat Drink Politics, noted in a recent report that a Walmart “employee who works 34 hours per week, which is Walmart’s definition of full-time, is paid $15,500 per year, which is about $8,000 below the federal poverty line for a family of four.” More than half of Walmart’s total work force of 1.3 million is estimated to earn less than $25,000 annually.
The ability of Walmart and other low-wage employers to sustain their workforces increasingly relies on heavy subsidies from government programs and from private charitable resources. A report issued by the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce estimated “one 300-person store in Wisconsin may result in a cost to taxpayers of up to $1,744,590 per year—about $5,815 per employee.” Based on this data, Americans for Tax Fairness estimates that “Walmart receives $6.2 billion annually in mostly federal taxpayer subsidies” through their employees using a wide range of federal and state assistance programs. (Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove described this report as “inaccurate and misleading,” referring to its use of extrapolated data and adding that public assistance program eligibility requirements vary from state to state.)