The Exchange

How Poor Is Poor? Ashton Kutcher, Walmart Face Off on Twitter

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Ashton Kutcher rings the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on August 6. (NYSE Euronext)

Memo to Walmart (WMT): Don’t get mixed up with one of the most-followed people on Twitter if you don't want to fan the flames over your hourly wage policies. Whatever happens, it will get noticed.

Following the news earlier this week that employees at a Walmart in Canton, Ohio had set up a food drive in their store for coworkers who couldn’t afford a happy Thanksgiving, “Two and a Half Men” star Ashton Kutcher took to Twitter to scold the company for what he viewed as its less-than-fair employment practices.

 
Walmart replied to Kutcher’s tweet with the following:

 
And the back-and-forth took off from there:

 

 

 

 
Walmart eventually turned to its own employment statistics in an effort to prove that its workers are not underpaid and don't need to rely on public assistance to pay their bills.

 

 

 


The conversation ended there, but not before attracting the attention of many in the Twitter community, a number of whom jumped into the fray to address Walmart directly and discuss their own employment experiences with the company.

What is poor?

Are the majority of Walmart's employees earning enough to be considered above the poverty line? According to the figures mentioned in the company's tweets, the answer would be "yes," as $25,000 per year is well above the official designation of poor. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as of 2013 the poverty threshold for a family of four is $23,550 and for a single adult is just $11,490 (the figures are slightly different for Hawaii and Alaska due to the higher cost of living in those far-flung states).

But determining just how much Walmart actually pays its employees is a difficult task. According to a story posted Tuesday on Salon.com, the company currently claims to pay its hourly workers an average of $12.78, but employee activist group OUR Walmart says the correct figure is actually closer to $9 per hour once managers and part-time employees are factored out. At that level, a full-time employee would be making just over $17,000 per year before taxes.

What kind of Thanksgiving celebration do you think you could throw on an income like that?

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