The Walton family is the richest family in the United States and one of the richest in the world. They are heirs to the Walmart fortune and the company’s largest shareholders, with a nearly-fifty percent ownership of stock in the retail giant.
Sam Walton and his brother Bud opened their first Walmart discount store in 1962. Today three family members serve on Walmart’s board of directors; Rob is the chair, and sits on the board with his brother Jim and his son-in-law, Greg Penner.
Six members of the family rank among the top eleven on Forbes’ list of wealthiest Americans, with a net worth of about $93 billion. With their 49% stake in Walmart, they brought in $2.2 billion in dividends off of Walmart stock last year alone.
The Waltons aren’t just the face of the 1%; they’re the face of the 0.000001%. In 2007, when the six Waltons on the Forbes list were worth $69.7 billion, their wealth was equal to the total wealth of the bottom 30% of American families. When new data on American wealth is available next year, it will probably show an even wider gap between the Waltons and the rest of American families. The Waltons are worth $93 billion now, while most Americans still haven’t recovered from the recession.
Why does all of this matter? While the Waltons are building billion-dollar museums, driving million-dollar cars, and jumping between vacation homes, Walmart, the country’s largest private employer, is paying its associates an average of $8.81 an hour. The Waltons make billions a year off of a company most of them don’t even work for, while Walmart associates struggle for respect on the job and enough pay to make ends meet.
Through their family legacy, places on Walmart’s board of directors, and their 49% stake in the company, the Waltons have the power to turn 1.4 million Walmart jobs into good jobs.