Faced with a more challenging interview than he might be used to, a Walmart spokesperson defended the company’s wage and labor practices to CNN host Carol Costello on Tuesday.
“Our average rate is about $12.40 an hour far a full time associate,” said the company’s vice president of communications, David Tovar. “We also offer comprehensive benefit packages as low as $17 a pay period, which is very affordable. We also pay quaterly bonuses, which is something that not a lot of retailers do.”
But that figure contrasted sharply with figures cited by workers-rights groups like Making Change At Walmart, which, as Costello noted, said the average hourly rate at the store is $8.81 an hour, based on independent market research. The average yearly salary for Walmart employees, $15,500, is just $370 above the U.S. government’s definition of the poverty line.
The company is not only facing the prospect of more employee walkouts as the holiday shopping season begins this weekend, but increased criticism spurred on in part by Tovar’s appearance on a Fox News show Monday in a segment sponsored by Wal-Mart itself.
“Walmart made a whole lot of money last year — billions of dollars, hundreds of billions of dollars.” Costello said. “Why not at least negotiate with [employees] so that they can live a better middle-class lifestyle?”
Tovar responded by saying the company can’t negotiate with unions because its employees are not unionized; he did not mention that Wal-Mart asked the National Labor Relations Board to stop employees from organizing and striking. At the same time, he insisted, the company appreciated its workforce.
“We wouldn’t be able to have the success that we’ve had of late without the hard work of our associates, and Black Friday is gonna be awesome at Walmart,” he said, repeating the mantra he put forth during his Fox News apperance. “That’s what we’re focusing on.”
Tovar also brushed off allegations of unsafe working conditions as being the work of a disgruntled minority.
“It’s the same people that the union’s put up every year, and have been doing it for years,” he said. “A lot of that is smoke and mirrors, and is not having an impact. In fact, our associates have said to us, ‘Why aren’t we speaking out more?’ Which is why I’m doing shows like yours and others.”
Costello’s interview with Tovar, posted on YouTube on Tuesday by Think Progress, can be seen below.