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Wall Street broker and radio host Peter Schiff took aim at Walmart workers this week, publishing a video on YouTube that features him mocking recent demonstrations that call for the mega-retailer to pay higher wages.
In the footage, Schiff confronts Walmart customers with a simple proposal: if you support workers getting higher wages, why not support them with your own pocketbook? He tells unwitting participants that he’s running a new campaign called “15 for 15,” which asks Walmart customers to pay 15 percent more so workers can earn $15 an hour.
While numerous people tell Schiff they support paying workers more, nobody on his edited video actually hands over any cash. To these rejections, Schiff mimes outrage. “But [the unions] are counting on you to pay higher prices!” he shouts.
To be clear, Schiff used to work for Lehman Brothers, and founded the investment firm Euro Pacific Capital Inc, so he knows that the second-largest corporation in the world, which pulled down over $447 billion in revenues during 2011 alone, does not actually have to choose between paying living wages or raising prices by 15 percent.
Instead, the point he’s trying to make -- that corporations always pass on the costs of doing business to their customers -- seems to get lost in the midst of his mockery, especially considering his relative status and wealth.
“You don’t support higher wages?” he jeers at one woman. “You greedy capitalist! Romney voter! Where are some Obama voters? They’re sure to want to spend more money.”
The union-backed group OUR Walmart has been agitating in recent months for better pay, more reasonable hours and adequate health benefits for the mega-retailer’s workers. The group says it wants to see Walmart pay workers $13 an hour and offer more full-time positions.
“Walmart makes billions of dollars in profit while paying workers so little that many cannot afford Thanksgiving dinner,” Rev. Ed Middleton, a Dallas-based pastor and OUR Walmart supporter, said in one of the group’s media advisories. “It shows a complete disregard for employees and their families. The scope of today’s nationwide protests matches the outrage felt by Americans across the country. Walmart’s business model is morally indefensible, and we won’t stand for it.”
For a company that claimed a net income of $3.7 billion in just the fiscal third quarter of 2013, paying a livable wage can’t be too much of a stretch. Just don’t tell that to Schiff.
Despite the Wall St. broker’s antics, Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of raising the national minimum wage. More than three-quarters of survey respondents told the polling firm Gallup in November that they would like to see a minimum wage of at least $9 an hour.