Letter to Walmart Board Member Marissa Mayer regarding Walmart’s Poverty Wage Regime

Marissa Mayer
CEO, Yahoo!
701 First Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94089

October 2, 2014

Dear Marissa Mayer,

As Google’s first female engineer, one of the first 25 female CEOs of a Fortune 500 company, and one of Fortune magazine’s most powerful women, it is said that you have become an inspiration for girls and women around the world. Today we write to ask you to join us in an important women’s empowerment initiative. It involves an area to which you have a special connection and thus presents you, specifically, with an important responsibility to make a direct difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of American women and an indirect difference for millions more women.

You are a prominent member of the governing board of the Walmart Corporation, which is the largest employer in the United States, employing about one in every hundred Americans. Unfortunately, America’s largest employer sets a horrible example with its miserly wage policy. Walmart pays hundreds of thousands of their workers less per hour, adjusted for inflation, than minimum wage workers
made at Walmart and elsewhere 46 years ago
. With rising housing, health and transportation costs, Walmart workers cannot make ends meet on less than $10, $9 or even, for some, $8 an hour. The cashiers and hourly sales associates at the Santa Clara Walmart close to your office, for example, live in a county with a living wage of ­­ as estimated by the MIT Living Wage Calculator ­­ $12.01, but most hourly Walmart workers are paid thousands of dollars per year below that standard. It’s no surprise that one Walmart manager even admitted this disconnect between Walmart pay and fair pay by placing a bin last holiday season to solicit donations from customers for his own needy workers.

Seventy percent of the positions subject to Walmart’s hourly poverty wage regime are held by women. Most of these women are managed by men, who ­­ despite making up a minority of the company’s employees ­­ make up a majority of Walmart’s managers and officials. Irregular schedules and a miserly sick day policy make Walmart a difficult place for mothers to work. Take as an example one 33­year­old mother of two featured on ABC News a few years ago: she had to leave her daughter at home with a 103­degree fever because she was worried about her three sick day “demerits” issued by her Walmart manager. Worse, Walmart’s poverty wage regime drives down the wages and benefits of neighboring stores, again disproportionately hurting women, who make up the majority of the low­wage workforce in America.

The largest private employer in the country should transition from its poverty wage regime to one that provides full­time jobs which pay living wages. Walmart could take a first step in this process of

ending this impoverishment of their female “associates” by endorsing the passage of H.R. 1010, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. This level is lower than the inflation­adjusted wage that the lowest paid Walmart workers ­­ under their founder, Sam Walton ­­ earned in the late 1960’s, which would be equivalent to $10.92 today.

Before Walton’s billionaire heirs cry ‘Impossible!’, remember: (1) Walmart pays all their workers in Ontario, Canada and Santa Fe, New Mexico over $10 an hour and still remains quite profitable; (2) Walmart had enough funds to issue $51 billion in stock buybacks over the past five years, which could have given every American Walmart worker a $3.50 per hour raise over the past five years; and (3) a 2011 U.C. Berkeley economic study showed that even if Walmart raised its starting wage to $12 and passed all the costs onto customers, it would only cost Walmart shoppers 46 cents more per shopping trip.

It would be a shame to have your legacy of female upward mobility rolled back by participation in a poverty wage regime depriving hundreds of thousands of American women of a decent livelihood. You must become an immediate, strong voice on the Walmart board to endorse H.R. 1010 and, with it, a modest raise in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 over three years. I


Ralph Nader
Consumer and Labor Advocate

Nikki Lewis Executive Director D.C. Jobs with Justice

Bethany Moreton
Author of To Serve God and Wal­Mart

Scott Nelson
Professor of History
President, Southern Labor Studies Association William and Mary

Pete Davis
Time for a Raise Campaign

Judy Conti
Federal Advocacy Coordinator National Employment Law Project

Eileen Boris
Hull Professor of Feminist Studies University of California, Santa Barbara

Nancy MacLean
President, The Labor and Working­Class History Association
Duke University

Nelson Lichtenstein Director,CenterfortheStudyofWork,Laborand Democracy
University of California, Santa Barbara

Jamie McCallum Professor of Sociology Middlebury College

David Bensman
Professor, School of Management and Labor Relations
Rutgers University

Bill Roy
Professor of Sociology UCLA

Tom Juravich
Professor of Labor Studies and Sociology University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Naomi R. Williams
Georgia Institute of Technology

Walakewon Blegay Labor Attorney

Liz Kofman UCLA

Gillet Rosenblith University of Virginia

Rosalyn Baxandall CityUniversityofNewYork Labor School

Alan Draper
Professor of Government St. Lawrence University

Nikol Alexander­Floyd
Associate Professor of Women and Gender Studies
Rutgers University

Judith Wittner
Professor of Sociology Loyola University, Chicago

Laura Wintz
President, Philadelphia Chapter Coalition of Labor Union Women

Jay Driskell
Assistant Professor of History Hood College

Ellen Dannin
Penn State Law National Writers Union

Marsha Love
University of Illinois at Chicago

Eliza Townsend
Maine Women’s Lobby Augusta, ME

(University and organizational affiliation listed for identification purposes only)