At Walmart, the CEO Makes 1,188 Times as Much as the Median Worker

Median worker’s pay was $19,177 last year at the world’s biggest retailer

Walmart Inc. WMT -1.74% paid its median worker $19,177 last year, while Chief Executive Doug McMillon earned $22.8 million, according to a securities filing Friday.

That places the retailer 10th among S&P 500 companies with the widest gap in pay between the CEO and a typical worker, based on an analysis of more than 330 firms that have disclosed the figures so far.

Retailers, which often rely on part-time and seasonal workers to fill their labor force, take four of the top 10 spots on the list of companies with the largest pay gap, including Kohl’s Corp. and Gap Inc. Mr. McMillon earns 1,188 times more than the median employee, according to the filing.

“Our company is unique because we are significantly larger than most of our peer group companies in terms of revenue, market capitalization, and the size and scope of our world-wide associate population,” said Walmart in the filing.

Walmart Chief Executive Doug McMillon PHOTO: YOSHIO TSUNODA/ZUMA PRESS

The company is one of the largest private employers with more than 2.3 million employees world-wide and around 1.5 million in the U.S. The figures include both full-time and part-time workers.

Walmart disclosed the pay ratio as part of a broader requirement of the postcrisis Dodd-Frank law that went into effect this year.

Among the 18 retailers that have reported this data so far, Walmart’s median pay falls near the middle. By comparison, Amazon.com Inc. ’s median worker earns $28,446, while Gap employees fall at the bottom of the group at $5,375.

“We have focused on our associates and we have focused on the pay, the training, so they can build a career with us,” said Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove.

Walmart has raised the minimum pay for its U.S. store workers in recent years, moving to $11 earlier this year, amid a tight labor market.

Retail-industry officials argue that median-pay and pay-ratio figures for their industry shouldn’t be compared with others because the widespread use of part-time and seasonal workers makes both look more extreme. The rules for calculating the figures don’t allow companies to annualize most pay figures.

Walmart also said it will shuffle its board. McDonald’s Corp. Chief Executive Steve Easterbrook will join the board, while longtime independent lead director James Cash and Instagram Chief Executive Kevin Systrom won’t stand for re-election, according to the filing. Earlier this year, Sarah Friar, chief financial officer of mobile payment company Square Inc, joined Walmart’s board.

Walmart Examines Role in Confronting Gun Violence

Employees circulate message calling for end to chain’s gun sales; retailer has no plans to change policies

Walmart Inc. ’s chief executive said he was rethinking the company’s role in confronting gun violence in the wake of two deadly shootings at Walmart stores, but didn’t offer specific plans or changes to its firearms and ammunition sales.

“We will work to understand the many important issues that arise from El Paso and Southaven, as well as those that have been raised in the broader national discussion around gun violence,” Doug McMillon wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday evening. “We will be thoughtful and deliberate in our responses.”

Mr. McMillon spent Tuesday in El Paso, Texas, meeting with Walmart employees who worked at the store where 22 people were killed in Saturday’s attack. Last week, in Southaven, Miss., a Walmart employee who had been suspended the previous weekend shot and killed two other workers at a company’s store.

His visit and Facebook message come as the retail giant is facing pressure from some employees and antigun activists to halt its sales of firearms or prohibit shoppers from carrying guns in stores.

Walmart is one of the country’s biggest sellers of guns. The retailer’s selection is focused on hunting rifles and shotguns. Since 2015, it hasn’t sold assault-style weapons and only sells handguns in Alaska. Last year, after a deadly shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., Walmart raised the minimum age to purchase guns or ammunition to 21.

“There are no plans at this time” to change policies around gun sales, Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said.

Two of the company’s workers in San Bruno, Calif., on Monday circulated a message to all e-commerce staff and the companywide Slack channel calling for a general strike to protest “Walmart’s profit from the sale of guns.”

Thomas Marshall, an e-commerce merchandiser in the corporate e-commerce office in California, and a co-worker later called for a walkout among corporate employees Wednesday afternoon and encouraged colleagues to sign an online petition asking Walmart to stop selling guns, allowing shoppers to carry guns in stores or donating to politicians with high ratings from the National Rifle Association.

On Tuesday afternoon, the company suspended Mr. Marshall’s and a co-worker’s access to its internal systems, he said. Managers told him they would restore access “on stipulation you will not use it for non-work activities,” the 23-year-old said in an interview.

Mr. Marshall said around 50 workers from the company’s California and New Jersey offices have sent messages of support. Some plan to protest the company’s gun policies Wednesday at 3 p.m. local time at its offices in San Bruno; Hoboken, N.J.; and in Portland, Ore., he said.

The company believes “there are more constructive ways for associates to offer feedback such as emails or conversations with leaders,” said Walmart’s Mr. Hargrove. The company will restore the two workers’ computer access when they return to work, Mr. Hargrove said.

Mr. Marshall said he still didn’t have access to the internal system as of Wednesday morning.

The debate is more evidence of the difficult balancing act Walmart navigates as it works to improve its reputation with shoppers and diversifies its workforce, adding offices around the country to attract more technology talent. The political divide in the country is increasingly pulling Walmart, the country’s largest retailer and largest private employer, into weighing in on social issues such as gay rights, immigration and gun violence.

Mr. McMillon has spoken out in support of creating an inclusive workplace and store environment, themes that he reiterated this week. “We are proud to be woven into the American fabric as a place for all people,” he wrote Tuesday. “We are more resolved than ever to foster an inclusive environment where all people are valued and welcomed.”

But any change to its gun policies risks alienating Walmart’s core customers, who often live in more conservative-leaning rural and suburban communities. The company faced some consumer backlash after raising the minimum age to purchase guns to 21.

Walmart Builds a Secret Weapon to Battle Amazon for Retail’s Future

The world’s largest retailer is using Jetblack, a money-losing personal-shopping service, to develop artificial intelligence to compete with e-commerce giant Amazon

Walmart is using Jetblack’s army of human agents to train an artificial intelligence system that could someday power an automated personal-shopping service, preparing Walmart for a time when the search bar disappears and more shopping is done through voice-activated devices, said Jetblack CEO Jenny Fleiss.

.. Walmart is competing with Amazon, which has $233 billion in annual sales, including web services.

.. Walmart is the world’s biggest retailer by revenue, with $514 billion in annual sales, but e-commerce makes up only a small percentage. That’s out of sync with where retail is growing fastest. Across the U.S., online shopping accounted for 9.7% of total retail sales last year and grew 14.2% from the previous year, according to the Commerce Department.

Walmart bought India’s biggest e-commerce site. It has been buying up small online retailers including men’s apparel company Bonobos and is testing autonomous cargo vans for home grocery delivery in places such as Surprise, Ariz.

.. it is one of the biggest gambles Walmart is making to attract wealthy shoppers and burnish its tech credentials.

Walmart primarily views the company as a research hub on AI and voice shopping.

.. Marc Lore, head of Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce business, had in mind a Jetblack-like service before Walmart bought his e-commerce startup Jet.com in 2016. That website sells products that appeal to urban shoppers, including higher-end brands that won’t sell on Walmart.com.

Mr. Lore was fascinated by the idea of a premium service that allowed shoppers to order products for speedy delivery by speaking into the air, said people familiar with his thinking. “This is a Marc Lore passion project,” said one former Walmart executive.

.. One former Walmart executive said Jetblack is “the first thing that we’ve tried that will unwind you” consistently from Amazon Prime. “The early indication is that it has legs,” even if the point isn’t earning profits, the former executive said.

Jetblack members are spending an average of $300 a week for products because the ease of the service encourages more frequent purchases ..

.. The average shopper is buying more than 10 items a week, said Ms. Fleiss. Average spending a week is higher than last September, said a company spokesman, but he declined to say how much Jetblack members spend a week or how many of those products come from Walmart.

.. Customer-service agents, often recent college graduates drawn to the startup culture of Jetblack, need to become experts on wealthy New York City moms. Agents have two weeks of training, in part to learn what products babies need as they move through different developmental phases so they can make better product recommendations.

.. Moms—the vast majority of members—sometimes text fast requests like “reorder cereal.” When a Jetblack member joins, an employee usually goes to the customer’s home to inventory the products the person uses, giving agents a database of frequent purchases. Software automatically suggests a product if it is a frequent purchase or was scanned in the customer’s home.

.. It takes agents slightly longer to place an order for “item requests,” when the shopper knows exactly what they want but hasn’t ordered it before. Even more time-consuming are “recommendations,” open-ended requests such as “I need a new yoga mat” or “I need a birthday present for a 9-year-old.”

.. Agents consult a file that combines past purchases, products agents have researched and recommendations made by Jetblack merchandising workers, then suggest around three items for the customer to choose from, current and former employees said. Sometimes agents head to Google to do research, said one of these people.

.. Through the dialogue, the system is learning which follow up questions to ask, said Ms. Fleiss. For example, if a shopper asks for a new stroller, the system might learn to next ask “For how many children?” and “Do you need your child to nap in the stroller?” Members buy one of the recommended products 80% of the time, she said.

.. Jetblack also learned it still needs traditional technology. It created a companion app because some shoppers don’t like to update credit card information or review past orders over text.

Workers stock up on frequently purchased items by taking a daily van to a Jet.com warehouse and Walmart stores in New Jersey, since New York City has no physical Walmart stores, ordering products online for pickup. Later this year Jetblack plans to use a new Walmart fulfillment center in the Bronx to collect some products faster, said a spokesman.

How Dark Money, Gerrymandering And Democratic Complacency Altered Wisconsin Politics

.. Six years before Trump’s win, the state’s voters elected conservative populist Scott Walker governor. With the help of a Republican-controlled legislature, Walker waged an unprecedented assault on public employee unions in the state and later signed a right to work bill, which undermined private-sector unions.

.. he would go along to these small towns and speak to people about this danger of corporate influence on their lives.

DAVIES: And how far into the 20th century did this sort of progressive trend hold in Wisconsin? And I note that Senator Joe McCarthy – probably the most notorious anti-communist of the century – came from that state.

..  he undertook a pretty radical approach to dealing with public employee unions. What did he propose to do?

KAUFMAN: Well, he proposed to all but strip them of collective bargaining rights, which is their ability to speak as a collective voice around wages, benefits and other workplace concerns, workplace safety, basically, reducing their ability to act as a collective voice. He exempted the police and fire department unions. Some would say that cynically because some of these unions supported him.

..  Tim Cullen, a moderate Democratic state senator – he said, the one thing that was non-negotiable was the automatic dues checkoff.

..  He stoked resentment against the public workers. It was clear in his inaugural address in 2011. He said the public employees can no longer be the haves, and the taxpayers can no longer be the have nots. Privately, he even went further.

There’s a famous recording of him speaking to a billionaire donor where she says when will we become a completely red state? When will we become a right-to-work state? She conflated the two. And he answered, you know, have you seen what we’re going to do with the public employees? And then he went on. He said, you know, because you use divide and conquer. What he meant by that was he was going to first attack the public employees. And then several years later, he instituted a right-to-work law against the private sector employees. Now you have a state that went from 14 percent union density when he was elected to 8 percent.

.. in 2016, the presidential election arrives in Wisconsin, as it does in the rest of the country. The Democratic primary – Bernie Sanders beats Hillary Clinton by 13 points. Why did Hillary Clinton have trouble connecting to Democratic voters in Wisconsin?

.. she has never been a close ally of labor. Wisconsin progressives were deeply wounded by the attacks on labor. She was a former corporate board member of Walmart, a notoriously anti-union company. And she also supported for many, many years free trade agreements, like NAFTA and the China’s membership into the World Trade Organization, that have really impacted the industrial Midwest in such a profound way. People are aware that you can drive by a factory, and they’ll say, oh, this factory moved to Mexico and then went on to Vietnam. They are very keenly aware. Other factors played a role – automation and so on – but these agreements really impacted particularly the industrial Midwest – Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio.

DAVIES: And particularly unionized workers, I think.

..  I think people forget that Donald Trump’s message during the campaign – he also twinned his message of resentment – racial resentment – with a defense of the welfare state. You can look at his speeches. He staged five huge rallies in Wisconsin. He almost always mentioned, we’ve got to protect Social Security and Medicare, and he railed against these free trade agreements. So there was a different kind of Republican message that resonated with a certain sector of the population enough to put him over the top, coupled with Hillary Clinton’s noncampaigning and non-effort in these places, and it really impacted the race.

.. There was frankly a weak Democratic opposition to his message, and there was a stoking of resentment in a time of economic insecurity. That is very powerful. And they weren’t – people weren’t being offered an alternative – a very compelling one anyway.

..  Another example is gerrymandering. In 2012 election, Wisconsin Democrats won an aggregate of almost 200,000 more votes than the Republicans, and yet they lost seats. That…

DAVIES: You’re talking about in the state legislature.

KAUFMAN: In the state legislature in the assembly, and that leads to demoralizing (laughter) of your party. I mean, it’s hard to get candidates to run when they know they’re going to be defeated if the district is just so heavily drawn to favor the Republicans where – and the Democratic seats are – you know, they’ll routinely win more than 70 percent of the vote. So they pack them in. And that case was, you know, brought to the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s the first partisan gerrymandering case to go to the Supreme Court in more than three decades because the federal court agreed with the plaintiffs – the Democrats – that their rights had been denied because it was so extreme.