Apparently, all those protests by Walmart workers over pay and benefits aren’t getting through to CEO Mike Duke.

At a recent event, Bloomberg LP President Dan Doctoroff pointed out to the Walmart chief executive that even though his company paints itself as "serving an emerging middle class," many of its employees aren’t paid enough to lead a normal life and some even resort to food stamps to make ends meet, as previously reported by The Huffington Post. This is what Duke had to say in response:

"Retailing is the most competitive industry out there, and we do pay competitive wages," Duke told Doctoroff, according to Business Insider, noting that around 165,000 Walmart employees were promoted from entry-level positions last year. “Our associates are a great source of pride and personal inspiration for me," he added.

But maybe that’s simply because he’s getting away with paying them so little. According to market research firm Ibis World, the average wage for a Walmart employee is $8.81 per hour, barely over the minimum wage in some states. Walmart executives say average rates are higher, with estimates including $11.75 per hour and $12.40 per hour. In contrast, Duke made $18.7 million in 2010. With a CEO-to-employee pay ratio of 717-to-1, that ranks Duke second among a list of 50 CEOs who are paid significantly more than their employees.

Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that Walmart CEO Mike Duke indicated that 175,000 employees were promoted by Walmart each year. According to Walmart, 165,000 workers were promoted in 2011.

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