WASHINGTON — Walmart Inc. urged Congress to boost the federal minimum wage, a rare instance of the nation’s biggest private employer demanding change on a contentious issue it’s long been pilloried for.
Calling the current $7.25 minimum wage “too low,” Walmart Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon said Wednesday it’s “time for Congress to put a thoughtful plan in place” to boost it. Walmart has raised its starting wage several times in recent years to the current $11 an hour, but that’s still below rivals like Target Corp. and Costco Wholesale Corp.
McMillon has previously expressed support for a higher minimum wage, but this is the first time in more than a decade that a Walmart CEO has specifically demanded new legislation on the matter.
“It’s clear by our actions and those of other companies that the federal minimum wage is lagging behind,” McMillon said at the company’s annual meeting in Rogers, Ark. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., took his presidential campaign to the meeting and introduced a shareholder proposal to add representatives from Walmart’s rank-and-file to the company’s board. The motion has no chance of passing, but Sanders’ presence has forced Walmart to address the issue of its treatment of workers head on.
With 1.5 million employees in the U.S., Walmart’s stance on labor issues can often influence broader American workforce trends. It’s unusual for Walmart, which has weathered criticism for years over its treatment of workers, to wade into the broader national debate on wages.