MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Lawmakers, religious leaders, and other citizens publicly criticized Walmart for the wages the retail giant pays its employees.
Making Change at Walmart said Walmart is not paying employees a living wage, which results in the company's employees needing to rely on government assistance programs to survive. The group said the focus is on low wages, high turnover, and taxpayer waste.
A single, full-time Walmart employee working 34 hours a week with 2 kids, still qualifies for Medicaid and food stamps even if they make Walmart's average hourly wage claim of $13.75, according to Making Change at Walmart.
The group said it chose to hold the demonstration outside the National Civil Rights Museum because Martin Luther King Jr. worked "50 years ago for the sanitation workers' rights and 50 years later we're taking workers' rights away."
"It's costing us $6.2 billion as taxpayers to support a full-time worker at Walmart," one protester said.
The group said salary employees at Walmart get 12 weeks of maternity leave and hourly employees do not receive any maternity leave.
"This is exactly what Dr. King would want us to do," one protester said.
The group called Walmart "un-American" because of the low wages and benefits.
I'm proud to be with folks that want to encourage living wages for our folks out there," State Representative Dwayne Johnson (D-96). "I'm in the state legislature in Nashville, and I go there and say we need to raise the minimum wage and we need to give companies incentives for them to raise the wages."
Johnson said when he speaks with businesses about raising the wages, they tell him they can't afford that and it would bankrupt their company.
"I'm proud of this group here and I hope people who hear about this and know about this will be encouraged to contact their elected officials, local, their state officials, and their federal officials, and put pressure on them to do the right thing for our working people out there," Johnson said.
The movement has stopped in 31 cities so far and they said their next stop is Arkansas. The group said it is headed to the shareholders meeting to let Walmart know that workers are not being paid livable wages or working in favorable conditions.
"Really contribute more to the economy. With better wages we have a stronger Memphis, stronger Memphis metro area," Thompson said.