Today, Forbes released its annual list of the 400 richest Americans. Not only can the Waltons still count themselves as the richest family in America, but their net worth rose 25% in the last six months. The six Waltons on the list—Christy, Alice, Jim, Rob, Ann, and Nancy—are worth a combined $144.7 billion, up $29 billion from the last Forbes tally in March. It’s as if the richest Waltons found a long-lost, equally affluent sibling.
Income inequality is continuing to set records, and the Waltons are emblematic of this trend. Just last week it was reported that the top 1% of U.S. earners took home 19.3% of household income last year. This is the highest proportion in a century; we have officially surpassed Great Depression-era levels of income concentration at the top. For the other 99% of Americans, household income went up a whopping 1% in 2012.
The bulk of the Waltons’ wealth comes from their shares in Walmart. Siblings Rob, Jim, and Alice share ownership of just over half of Walmart stock. Dividends on those shares line the Waltons’ pockets every year. This fiscal year, Rob, Jim, and Alice (and the various entities that they control) will receive an estimated $3.1 billion in Walmart dividends.
Just don’t expect the Waltons to share that wealth. According to a recent Bloomberg story, the Waltons are America’s biggest users of a particular type of charitable trust that actually allows the donor to pass money on to heirs after an extended period of time, without having to pay the much-debated estate tax. An accountant interviewed by Bloomberg estimated that just one of the Waltons’ twenty-one charitable trusts would result in $2.2 billion for Walton heirs. Closing the two types of loopholes the Waltons appear to use would return more than $20 billion to taxpayers over the next decade.
Walmart workers, on the other hand, are part of a growing chorus of low-wage workers speaking out for respect and better jobs. On September 5, Walmart associates and their supporters gathered in fifteen cities across the country, calling on Walmart to reinstate illegally fired and disciplined workers, publicly commit to improve jobs, and end the company’s aggressive violations of workers’ rights. According to the most recent data available, the six Waltons on the Forbes list have the same wealth as the bottom 42% of American families combined. Walmart associates, in comparison, have been risking arrest in their fight for $25,000 a year for full time work.
Walmart associates make an average of about $8.81 an hour, despite the company’s misleading claims to the contrary. Under Walmart’s definition of full-time work, this amounts to only about $15,500 annually. Meanwhile, the Waltons’ wealth is up 25% in just six months. Basically, in less than 10 seconds, the Waltons made what the average Walmart associate makes in a year. Think something’s wrong with that picture? Sign our petition here and look out for exciting opportunities to join in Walmart associates’ biggest actions yet this Black Friday.