For months now, labor activists have pointed to the growing gap between CEOs' and workers' pay as proof that the minimum wage needs to be raised. But now a group of protesters in front of a Walmart took the argument one step further and made it personal: Taking aim at the chairman's expensive hobby.
On Saturday, S. Robson Walton, the 17th richest man in the world and the chairman of Walmart, was in Laguna Seca, Calif., racing his Maserati, Ferrari and two other cars. According to local reports, a small group of protesters, two of them fired Walmart workers, staged protests in front of the racetrack and a nearby Walmart, taking Robson Walton to task and noted his cars were valued at $16 million.
One group unfurled a banner that said simply, "Your hobby = our taxes." Some handed out leaflets that said, "The American people are tired of paying for your expensive hobbies. Time to pay your workers a living wage."
The protests are a reference to the fact that thousands of employees of Walmart rely on public assistance to make ends meet. Our Walmart, the union group organizing protests, contends that "the average Walmart store" costs taxpayers $1 million a year in government subsidies, notes The Herald News. Spokespeople for Walmart, however, have countered that Walmart's hourly wages -- about $8.53 an hour for a cashier, according to Glassdoor.com -- are competitive for the industry and that some 75 percent of managers started as associates and were promoted from within. A spokeswoman told The Herald News that "we see [these protests] as another attempt by union organizers to try to gain attention, but, unfortunately for them, they don't represent those people who work in our stores everyday."
Is Robson Walmart's hobby irrelevant? Tony Barrera, a City Councilman from Salinas, one of the handful people at the protest, didn't think so. He told The Herald News:
"The Waltons are very well off, and I admire them for that, but when Rob Walton is out here racing $16 million worth of vehicles (a Ferrari, a Maserati, a Corvette and a Scarab) and his employees are struggling to put food on their tables, I think any reasonable person is going to ask, 'What's wrong with this picture?' I'm here to say to the Waltons, 'You're entitled to your wealth ... but what about them?'"