Memo to Walmart (WMT): Don’t get mixed up with one of the most-followed people on Twitter if you don't want to fan the flames over your hourly wage policies. Whatever happens, it will get noticed.
Following the news earlier this week that employees at a Walmart in Canton, Ohio had set up a food drive in their store for coworkers who couldn’t afford a happy Thanksgiving, “Two and a Half Men” star Ashton Kutcher took to Twitter to scold the company for what he viewed as its less-than-fair employment practices.
Walmart is your profit margin so important you can't Pay Your Employees enough to be above the poverty line? http://t.co/YT8QDmyJ8G— ashton kutcher (@aplusk) November 19, 2013
Walmart replied to Kutcher’s tweet with the following:
.@aplusk It’s unfortunate that an act of human kindness has been taken so out of context. We're proud of our associates in Canton.— Walmart Newsroom (@WalmartNewsroom) November 19, 2013
And the back-and-forth took off from there:
@WalmartNewsroom you should be proud of your associates but I'm not sure if they should be proud of you.— ashton kutcher (@aplusk) November 19, 2013
@WalmartNewsroom Walmart does a lot of great things but it needs to be a leader on this issue as well.— ashton kutcher (@aplusk) November 19, 2013
Walmart eventually turned to its own employment statistics in an effort to prove that its workers are not underpaid and don't need to rely on public assistance to pay their bills.
@aplusk We think you're missing a few things. The majority of our workforce is full-time and makes more than $25,000/year.— Walmart Newsroom (@WalmartNewsroom) November 19, 2013
@aplusk Also about 75% of our store management teams started as hourly associates & they earn between $50,000 and $170,000 a year on avg.— Walmart Newsroom (@WalmartNewsroom) November 19, 2013
@aplusk Lastly, every year, we promote about 160,000 people to jobs with more responsibility and higher pay.— Walmart Newsroom (@WalmartNewsroom) November 19, 2013
@aplusk We know we can always get better as a company. This year we've made providing more opportunities for our associates a top priority.— Walmart Newsroom (@WalmartNewsroom) November 19, 2013
The conversation ended there, but not before attracting the attention of many in the Twitter community, a number of whom jumped into the fray to address Walmart directly and discuss their own employment experiences with the company.
What is poor?
Are the majority of Walmart's employees earning enough to be considered above the poverty line? According to the figures mentioned in the company's tweets, the answer would be "yes," as $25,000 per year is well above the official designation of poor. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as of 2013 the poverty threshold for a family of four is $23,550 and for a single adult is just $11,490 (the figures are slightly different for Hawaii and Alaska due to the higher cost of living in those far-flung states).
But determining just how much Walmart actually pays its employees is a difficult task. According to a story posted Tuesday on Salon.com, the company currently claims to pay its hourly workers an average of $12.78, but employee activist group OUR Walmart says the correct figure is actually closer to $9 per hour once managers and part-time employees are factored out. At that level, a full-time employee would be making just over $17,000 per year before taxes.
What kind of Thanksgiving celebration do you think you could throw on an income like that?