The Walton family is the richest family in the United States and one of the richest and most powerful in the world. They are heirs to the Walmart fortune and the company’s largest shareholders, with over fifty percent ownership of stock in the retail giant.
Sam Walton and his brother Bud opened their first Walmart discount store in 1962. Today, Sam Walton’s three children—Alice, Rob, and Jim—control a majority stake in the company. Three family members serve on Walmart’s board of directors; Greg Penner is the chair, and he sits on the board with his father-in-law, Rob Walton, and Rob’s nephew, Steuart Walton.
In 2015, the six Waltons on the Forbes 400 list were worth $136.1 billion, making them the richest family in the United States. They have more wealth than 43% of American families combined. Their net worth is nearly equal to the combined wealth of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. The Waltons’ wealth comes from their inherited, controlling stake in Walmart. While Walmart workers live in poverty, the Waltons rake in billions every year from the company in dividends and sales of their Walmart shares.
The Waltons have these riches thanks to the hard work of their own employees and all of us taxpayers. Based on recent estimates, Walmart receives $6.2 billion annually in taxpayer subsidies to make up for the low wages it pays its workers. Instead of paying workers enough to survive, the Waltons take billions from Walmart every year, while driving their workers on to food stamps and other public assistance.
This year, the Waltons will receive an estimated $3.2 billion in Walmart dividends. If they actually worked for their dividend checks, they would be handed $1.56 million every hour. Meanwhile, Walmart workers start at $9/hour and are routinely denied full-time work.
At $9/hour, Walmart workers make less than $16,000/year working 34 hours per week, which is Walmart’s definition of full-time. The Waltons, however, get $26,000 per minute from their Walmart dividends alone.
Through their family legacy, places on Walmart’s board of directors, and their majority stake in the company, the Waltons have the power to turn 1.5 million Walmart jobs into good jobs. The Waltons can certainly afford to do better by their workers and the American taxpayers who subsidize their profit-at-any-cost model, but they continue to choose not to.