Every evening for more than a decade, after finishing a daylong shift, Walmart cashier Mendy Hughes drives from the superstore that employs her back to her home in rural Arkansas. If she’s short of Lunchables or frozen dinners, she’ll stop at a McDonald’s drive-thru and pick up $1.59 chicken sandwiches from the value menu for her and her children. She says the $11.85 hourly wage Walmart Inc. pays her—which makes the company an outlier to rivals Amazon, Best Buy, and Target, all of which pay at least $15—means she struggles to afford groceries.
For almost a decade, the movement to push businesses to pay at least $15 an hour has gained momentum, spawning groups such as Fight for $15 and United for Respect—an organization of mostly Walmart workers that Hughes belongs to. But Walmart, the U.S.’s largest employer, with more than 1.5 million employees, has consistently shot the argument down. For Hughes—who at times has fallen behind on paying thousands of dollars in medical bills from a knee injury while also paying for treatment for her diabetes and son’s asthma—the company’s stance feels born out of “pure greed.” She’s especially critical of management and theWalton family that controls the chain for keeping lowly paid workers down, even as they enrich themselves through measures such as a $20 billion share buyback announced in February.
“They don’t care about the associates [entry-level employees such as cashiers] at all. They just want more money for themselves,” Hughes says. After 11 years of service in the retail giant’s home state of Arkansas, she says she no longer feels proud to work there. “It’s just not the same company it used to be.”Bloomberg