The other day’s post went into the Waltons’ finances because of the recent revelation that their personal wealth topped $89 billion in 2010 and hit $100 billion this year. With figures that huge, contextualization is key, and a little more numbers breakdown might be in order, considering how often we mention living wages. Wal-Mart associates are paid an average of $8.81 every hour, which comes out to a gross annual income of $13,650 which is, by the way, what CEO Mike Duke makes every hour. The average American living wage -- just enough money meet the most basic of necessities -- was $13.10 per hour in 2006, which comes out to $20,296.82, right between the poverty rates for a household of three ($19,090) and a household of four ($23,050). The difference in the two numbers is $6646.82 per annum per worker. Wal-Mart employs about 974,800 in-store associates, and the cost of them all receiving them $6.6k bump would be about $6.5 billion or so.
Huge sum? Sure. But let’s parse some more. First, Wal-Mart’s top 5 executives were paid a total of about $80,000,000 in 2009, enough to compensate 5,860 associates, implying, as far as merit based pay goes, that the work each of those executives did, either through difficulty or required skillset, was worth that of 1,172 associates; could that be true? Maybe so -- it takes a certain amount of cunning to decide that lobbying for tighter sentencing laws will stock prisons full of cheap labor.
Well, is there any room elsewhere? Definitely. The Waltons alone took in about $6.6 billion every year over the past five years, and while it can be hard to live on $100 million per year on top of your $100 billion, it’s probably doable. Wal-Mart itself took in $16.3 billion in profits in 2010, leaving ample space for humanity-in-payroll.