Sanders to Walmart shareholders: $15 minimum wage 'not a radical idea'

Sanders to Walmart shareholders: $15 minimum wage 'not a radical idea'
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Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTech firms face skepticism over California housing response Press: Another billionaire need not apply Ex-Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick mulling 2020 run: report MORE (I-Vt.) pushed for Walmart employees to receive a $15 an hour minimum wage at the company’s shareholders’ meeting on Wednesday as the presidential hopeful targets the latest company in his push for improving working conditions. 

“Walmart can afford to pay its employees a living wage of at least $15 an hour and that is not a radical idea,” Sanders said at the meeting.

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Sanders also attacked the Waltons, following up on a statement he issued on Tuesday against the company's founding family that is today among the country's wealthiest.

“Despite the incredible wealth of its owner, Walmart pays many of its employees starvation wages,” Sanders said, adding that many are on food stamps and live in public housing. 

Sanders was attending the retailer's annual shareholder meeting as a proxy for the Walmart workers’ rights group, United for Respect, which is pushing for a proposal that includes a $15 minimum wage and adding an hourly employee to the company’s board. 

“Give a voice to its workers by allowing them seats on the board of directors,” Sanders also requested. 

He added that workers should be able to work at least 40 hours a week and provided with “decent” health care.

Walmart, the largest private employer in the U.S., has been facing pressure to increase its minimum wage for hourly employees from the current $11 an hour.

But the company, famous for its cost-cutting approach to retail, is seen as unlikely to approve a $15 wage.

The 2020 presidential contender has been on the forefront of the fight to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 from $7.25, as a handful of blue states including New York have already passed legislation to phase in an increase in pay.

Sanders reintroduced legislation this year to increase the federal minimum wage with 31 Democratic co-sponsors, including Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerIlhan Omar blasts Pete King as an 'Islamophobe' after he announces retirement: 'Good riddance' Top Senate Dem: Officials timed immigration policy around 2020 election Senate fight derails bipartisan drug pricing bills MORE (D-N.Y.).

The House version, introduced by House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottEducation Department finalizes new regulations to relax college-accreditation requirements Trump admin gave over million in aid to students at unaccredited for-profit colleges CBO: Pelosi bill to lower drug prices saves Medicare 5 billion MORE (D-Va.), has 205 cosponsors, all Democrats.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats sharpen their message on impeachment Congress hunts for path out of spending stalemate Siren song of impeachment lures Democrats toward election doom MORE (D-Calif.) is a co-sponsor and while the bill could see movement in the House, it would face an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled Senate. 

Sanders is a longtime supporter of the “Fight for $15” movement, which was started in 2012 by fast-food workers, and he has made it a key part of his 2020 campaign.

Sanders was among those pushing Amazon to increase its minimum wage and praised the online retailer after it decided to adopt the $15 an hour pay in October.

The self-described democratic socialist has also set McDonald's among his targets this year. He's due to appear on Sunday in Iowa to lead a march by workers of the fast food chain demanding a $15 hourly wage.

— Updated at 1:45 p.m.