Check out our new infographic on the Walton heirs who control Walmart. Please share widely!
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.
For the Walton family, charity does, indeed, seem to begin at home.
Yesterday, Bloomberg released a feature detailing how the Waltons have become today’s Rockefellers, amassing the largest family fortune in the country at a time of extreme inequality and taking advantage of tax avoidance schemes to preserve it. Or, to quote Gawker’s headline, “The Waltons Are the Greediest Family in the World.”
The Waltons, as we know, have a climbing fortune currently worth about $115.7 billion. The United States is experiencing record-setting levels of inequality, and the Waltons are leading the way as the face of the 1%. They have more wealth—built on the backs of their underpaid workforce at Walmart—than the bottom 42% of American families combined.
Bloomberg reporter Zach Mider goes into detail about the tax loopholes available only to ultra-wealthy families like the Waltons, and how they use these tricks to avoid paying taxes on wealth passed down from generation to generation. He writes,
The Waltons’ example highlights how billionaires deftly bypass a tax intended to make sure that the nation’s wealthiest contribute their share to government rather than perpetuate dynastic wealth, a notion of fairness voiced by supporters of the estate tax like Warren Buffett and William Gates Sr.
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. Mider explains, “A donor locks up assets in these trusts, formally known as charitable lead annuity trusts, or CLATs, for a period of time, say 20 or 30 years. An amount set by the donor is given away each year to charity. Whatever is left at the end goes to a beneficiary, usually the donor’s heirs, without any tax bill.”
Of course, most Americans aren’t in a position to keep their money out of reach for decades at a time. And for that matter, most Americans aren’t in a position to owe estate taxes either. The Waltons, though, are exactly the type of people who would normally pay estate taxes and exactly the ones who are trying time and again to avoid it. An accountant interviewed in the Bloomberg story estimated that just one of the Waltons’ twenty-one charitable trusts would result in $2.2 billion for Walton heirs. According to Treasury Department estimates, closing the two loopholes the Waltons seem to use would raise more than $20 billion over the next decade.
If there was any question about who is the face of income inequality in America, Bloomberg just answered it.
Over the weekend, Salinas Valley community supporters joined Walmart workers at a demonstration in front of the Laguna Seca Raceway in California during the annual Monterey Motorsports Reunion. The demonstration took place while Walmart Board Chair, and heir to the Walton family fortune, Rob Walton raced two of his multimillion dollar racecars worth more than $16 million. The purpose of the protest was to bring attention to the disturbing fact as well as the reality that Rob Walton and his familyengage in lavish and expensive hobbies while the family increases its wealth by pushing certain Walmart worker costs onto taxpayers.
“Last year, it took Rob just a second to wreck a rare 15 million dollar vintage car, but it would take 194 years for a Walmart employee working around the clock to earn 1 million dollars,” said Raymond Bravo, a member of OUR Walmart who was recently illegally fired from his job at Walmart for speaking out and going on strike. Raymond, who participated in the demonstration, told the Monterey County Herald that while he worked at Walmart earning a poverty wage he was “living on Top Ramen and fast food.”
Despite their enormous wealth, Rob Walton and Walmart rely on taxpayers to subsidize their low-road, low-wage approach to business. Rob and the Walton family, who control the world’s largest private employer, have more wealth than the bottom 42% of American families combined. The Walton wealth according to a recent government report is subsidized in part by taxpayers. The report issued in June describes how on average a single Walmart store costs taxpayers nearly $1 million in various government subsidies including food and rental assistance provided to Walmart workers to supplement the company’s poverty wages.
Post by Jorge Amaro.
Following Walmart’s annual meeting, the company’s board of directors is officially less independent than it was a few weeks ago.
Three independent directors have left the board and the Waltons own over half of the company’s stock, making the board less independent and opening the door to greater Walton control. Renee Dudley explains the implications in a recent Bloomberg story:
[Some] institutional investors are expressing concern that the founding family’s stake allows the chain to have a minority of independent directors. As a result of buybacks, the Waltons own at least 50.9 percent of outstanding shares, up from about 39 percent a decade ago. Under New York Stock Exchange rules, that makes Wal-Mart a controlled company, allowing it to opt out of a requirement to have a majority of independent directors.
Investors’ concern over growing Walton control is well-founded, given the multitude of problems the company faces: an alleged bribery scandal that top executives were aware of and grossly mishandled; mounting costs related to investigation of said bribery scandal; failing at Retail 101-level duties like keeping shelves stocked, earnings weakness, human rights disasters in the supply chain; and persistent strikes by workers in its U.S. stores.
Unfortunately, a less independent board is less likely to address these challenges, as an analyst interviewed by Dudley explains:
[A] less independent board could be less likely to push executives to assertively confront myriad challenges, said Robin Sherk, a New York-based analyst at consulting and research firm Kantar Retail.
“When it’s that closely held, they could end up doing less risk-taking and just care more about safe returns,” Sherk said.
On the other hand, the recent board election showed that shareholders are not entirely satisfied with Walmart’s governance: excluding the Walton family’s shares, more than 30% of shareholders voted against director Christopher Williams and CEO Mike Duke, while 25% voted against board chair Rob Walton. On top of that, 35% of non-Walton shareholders supported a proposal that would require an independent board chair.
Walmart says it has no plans to take advantage of its controlled-company status, but does it have any plans to effectively respond to shareholder dissention?
MEDIA ADVISORY FOR
Tuesday, May 14th 2013
Nick Sifuentes, 310-866-1692, firstname.lastname@example.org
Students, Teachers, Education Advocates March From Closing School to Walmart Site
Marchers to Call Out Walton Family for Undermining Chicago Public School System
Majority of Chicago School Closures In Communities of Color, Low-Income Neighborhoods
Chicago, IL – On Tuesday, May 14th, over a hundred students, teachers, community leaders, education advocates and their supporters will march from Overton Elementary School (221 E. 49th St.) to a nearby construction site for a new Walmart store at 4701 S. Cottage Grove Ave. to protest the Walton family’s efforts to undermine Chicago’s public schools.
Marchers will gather at Overton Elementary School and proceed to the Walmart construction site, where they will hold a rally led by the Chicago Teachers’ Union. There, they will call on the Walton family to stop funding efforts to close Chicago’s public schools.
The Walton family, the richest family in America and heirs to the Walmart fortune, have given millions of dollars to initiatives which strip money from public schools, including nearly half a million dollars in support of Chicago Public Schools’ proposed school closures. Meanwhile, in 2012, the family spent $3.8 million—more money than they spent in any other city—opening new charter schools. The vast majority of the schools closing in Chicago serve low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, leaving many of these areas without local schools.
Walmart has eight stores in Chicago and two more under construction. Walmart workers earn low wages and benefits and often lack access to affordable, quality healthcare. Meanwhile, warehouse workers who supply Walmart goods have called on Walmart to require its contractors to guarantee safe workplaces and fair treatment. In addition, the company is notorious for finding ways to finance its operations on the backs of taxpayers; to help build new stores in Chicago, Walmart is leaning on a tax scheme that diverts money to developers and away from schools and other critical services.
WHO: Students, teachers, community leaders, local residents and education advocates
WHAT: March from Overton Elementary School to Walmart construction site in Bronzeville
WHEN: Overton Elementary: 4:00pm, Tuesday, May 14th, 2013
Walmart site: 4:30pm, Tuesday, May 14th, 2013
WHERE: Overton Elementary School, 221 E. 49th St., to a nearby construction site for a new Walmart store at 4701 S. Cottage Grove Ave.
UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Wal-Mart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Wal-Mart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Wal-Mart publically commit to adhering to labor rights and standards. UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of Walmart employees.
We recently heard an amazing statistic on the Melissa Harris-Perry show about how Black and Latino households lost large percentages of their wealth during the recession. It got us thinking, of course, about how, while that was happening, the Walton Family continued to amass more wealth than any family could ever need.
We tracked down the data and here it is:
Overall, during from 2007 to 2010, US households, regardless of race, lost a staggering 47% of their wealth. Not surprisingly, African-American and “Hispanic” households fared even worse, losing 50% and 86%, respectively.
Surely, as the company was suffering, so did the Waltons, right? Nope. From 2007 to 2010, the Waltons’ wealth went from $70 billion to nearly $90 billion, an increase of 28%.
This week, Forbes released its annual billionaires issue. Predictably, the Waltons, whose wealth is derived almost exclusively from their holdings in Walmart, rank among the richest people on the planet. Six of them appear on the Forbes Billionaires list, and they are collectively worth $115.7 billion. Sam Walton’s heirs rank among the top 20 richest people on the planet and his brother Bud’s children are further down the list—but still miles above the rest of us:
While the media slices and dices the list (Christy and Alice are the richest women in the U.S.; Alice is among the list’s divorced billionaires), it’s hard to understand what all that money really means.
The contrast between average Americans and the Waltons is starkest at the very company almost all of the Waltons’ wealth comes from, Walmart. The average Walmart worker makes $8.81 an hour. At that rate, it would take a Walmart Associate working Wamart’s definition of full-time more than 7 million years to earn as much wealth as the Walton family has.
To put it another way, the Waltons’ wealth is greater than each of the following, according to a post on Mother Jones: the amount spent by the federal government last year on food stamps, the entire 2012 budget of the state of California, and the combined 2012 budget shortfalls of all fifty states.
Christy Walton is the richest Walton and the richest woman in America. Her wealth of $28.2 billion could cover childcare costs for more than 3.6 million kids this year. Alternatively, it could put over 300,000 kids through four years of college.
These figures might seem farfetched, but really, it’s because the Waltons are the face of inequality in America (in case you needed another Forbes list to prove it).
The Waltons, the richest family in the United States, and the owners of nearly half of all Walmart stock, just announced they’ve given themselves a raise of $436 million dollars. The Board of Directors, which includes three members of the Walton family, just voted to increase the annual dividend by 18% over the previous fiscal year. As a result, the Waltons’ Walmart dividends alone in FY14 will top $3 billion.
According to the latest numbers from Forbes, the Walton family is now worth more than $115 billion. We’ve written previously about how the Walton family has more wealth than the bottom 42% of American families combined. And, they just keep getting richer.
Meanwhile, Walmart workers are living in poverty – a full-time worker reportedly averages just $15,500/year. And the Huffington Post revealed recently that Walmart associates face strict caps on annual raises for good performance. For the average employee making $8.81 an hour, the best possible raise for “role model” performance under Walmart’s rules amounts to less than 7%–nowhere near the Waltons’ 18% this year. (There are four performance levels below this top rating.)
While the Waltons pile their stacks of money higher, the American taxpayer subsidizes Walmart’s low-wages and poor benefits. In many states across the country, Walmart is the employer with the largest number of employees and dependents using taxpayer-funded health insurance programs.
In Massachusetts, in 2009, taxpayers paid $8.8 million for Walmart associates to use publicly subsidized healthcare services.
In addition, a 2007 study found that, as of that date, Walmart had received more than $1.2 billion in tax breaks, free land, infrastructure assistance, low-cost financing and outright grants from state and local governments around the country. This number has surely increased as Walmart continues to receive additional subsidies.
This year, thousands of activists stood up to the Walmart 1% across the country. It was a busy year for the one percent—and for the rest of us. There was the news of alleged bribery and corruption in Mexico, Walmart leaving ALEC under pressure from the public (here’s hoping the Walton Family Foundation follows their lead next year), forced labor at Walmart suppliers, warehouse worker strikes, and a Black Friday to remember when Walmart associates went on strike over the company’s retaliation and attempts to silence those who spoke out for improvements on the job.
Click through to take a look at some of what we accomplished, and come back in the new year, because 2013 is going to be even bigger! [Read more...]