The world’s largest retailer is calling for the U.S. government to raise the federal minimum wage.

During Walmart Inc.’s 2019 annual shareholders’ meeting, held Wednesday, June 5, company CEO Doug McMillon said Walmart has increased its starting wages in the U.S. by 50 percent over the past four years and invested an incremental $4.5 billion in pay above traditional wage increases.

“We continue to adjust up on a market-by-market basis to recruit and retain the talent we need to run a good business,” he said. “It’s clear by our actions and those of other companies that the federal minimum wage is lagging behind. $7.25 is too low.”

Arizona’s minimum wage currently is $11 an hour on its way to $12 an hour in 2020 per a voter-approved ballot initiative passed in 2016.

McMillon called for Congress to put a “thoughtful plan” into place that takes phasing and cost of living differences into account to increase the minimum wage while avoiding “unintended consequences.”

McMillon’s statements came shortly before Sen. Bernie Sanders addressed the meeting on behalf of a Walmart employee and her proposal to add hourly associates to the company’s board.

“Despite the incredible wealth of its owner, Walmart pays many of its employees starvation wages, wages that are so low that many of them are forced to rely on government programs like food stamps, Medicaid, and public housing to service,” Sanders said. “Frankly, the American people are sick and tired of subsidizing the greed of some of the largest and most profitable corporations in this country.”

As part of its annual report, Walmart noted it surpassed $514 billion in total revenue, an increase of more than $14 billion, for the year, and saw its highest U.S. comparable sales growth (excluding fuel) in 10 years. $13.5 billion were returned to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases.

Walmart also reports its total hourly average compensation for full- and part-time workers is $17.50.

The company is based in Bentonville, Arkansas.

By Mary Cashiola – Managing Editor, Memphis Business Journal