Saturday, November 30, 2013

How Walmart Hurts America

Can you imagine being able to wake every single morning, just to lie in bed all day long watching the latest movies on a 110-inch super-size ultra-high-definition TV, and having a beside intercom to have all your meals delivered to you any time you get hungry --- all while being paid over $1 million a day? If they wanted to, the 6 Walmart heirs can --- raking in more than $1 million every single day, just from the dividends paid on their Walmart stock.

Realistically speaking though, I'm quite sure they're not just lying around in bed all day long watching TV --- not when they can do anything else in the world they wanted. With their resources, if they wanted to, they could even travel to the moon (one-way I would hope).

Meanwhile, according to the market researcher IBSWORLD, Walmart employees are working all hours of the day, including holidays, struggling to pay their rent and buy food, while only earning an average of $8.81 an hour (before taxes). If these Walmart "associates" were lucky enough to be permanent full-time employees (working 40 hours a week), that would only be $18,325 a year.

And because 50% of all wage earners in the U.S. only takes home $27,500 a year or LESS, (including Walmart workers), they are also forced to shop at places just like Walmart --- just as the unemployed do using food stamps.

Note: Supervalu is the third-largest food retailing company in the United States (after Kroger and Safeway). A Goldman Sachs analyst has recently downgraded the stock of Supervalu (from HOLD to SELL) after citing federal cuts to food stamps, so their stock price had tumbled 9%.

Stephanie Luce, a labor studies professor at the City University of New York, says "Walmart workers are also Walmart shoppers, so to the extent that wages have stagnated, it’s not surprising that sales have stagnated as well. If every employer pays low wages, then no one will be there to buy anything. That’s why this issue is bigger than Walmart.”

The U.S. government is, and always has been, America's largest job creator. Government jobs usually pay a fair and living wage, and rises with inflation --- and that's why these jobs usually pay better than those that are non-union jobs in the private sector.

Case in point: After the federal government, Walmart is America's second largest job creator, and they barely pay the federal minimum wage --- nor does the company offer other benefits to their typical employees that the government and union jobs provide --- such a pension and healthcare plans.

The Republicans use this comparison to make the case that government workers in the public sector (and union workers) are paid too much, when in reality, it's really the workers in the private sector (and non-union workers) that have been paid far too little.

That's why labor unions and labor laws are so very important (and a good counter-balance to corporate greed); otherwise, employers in the private sector would pay their workers next to nothing if they could (after all, they have before).

Most of these large corporations have an army of high-paid lobbyists and attorneys looking out for their interests (including most Republican politicians); but the workers (with the exception of a few progressive Democrats) don't have anyone watching their backs (unless of course, they belong to a labor union.)

The workers at Walmart aren't going to get a raise simply by politely asking for one, so they have to demand a pay raise --- and that's what they've been doing --- by taking to the streets in protest (because if they don't, they could end up sleeping on them instead).

Walmart Hurts America

Why were yesterday's Black Friday mass protests against Walmart so important? Because we can think of no other corporation that has caused as much damage to the working class, communities and the overall economy as Walmart. The 6 Walmart heirs (the Walton family) have more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans. Walmart, as the largest private employer in the world, has extensive supply lines.

The Walton family wealth has come at a tremendous price for the rest of us. They've gained this wealth by squashing worker rights, lowering wages and draining our local tax dollars, and they show no signs of changing course. After the disastrous collapse of the factory in Bangladesh which killed over 1,000 workers, many companies signed on to a new accord to prevent it from happening again. Walmart, along with the clothing company GAP, refuses to sign the accord.

Walmart's "low price guarantee" has effectively made them into a monopoly that forces their suppliers to fire workers and move overseas to drive down costs. Walmart is such a behemoth that it has no competitor in the world. And despite massive profits, each Walmart employee requires around $2,000.00 per year in public assistance for health care and food stamps. That doesn't include taxpayer investment in infrastructure for Walmart stores and corporate tax breaks. This year, Walmart went so far as to request food donations for their own poverty-wage employees' Thanksgiving meals.

In addition, as Walmart stores have popped up across the country, they have left a path of destruction to small businesses and have ravaged communities. Local businesses simply can't compete with Walmart's prices. And Walmart sucks local dollars out of state to the corporate headquarters in Arkansas. There is a very high cost to Walmart's low prices. Local politicians who do not stop Walmart from coming to their city are doing a public disservice.

Walmart workers protest

Over the past few years, Walmart workers have been fighting back through the organization OUR Walmart and their For Respect Campaign. They've staged strikes at stores and warehouses, rallies at the Walmart headquarters and this year they escalated to road blockades and mass arrests. Workers are speaking out and telling their stories. This past Black Friday, protests at 1500 stores had been organized and community members were standing in solidarity with the workers. (Here are the tools that protesters can use to educate and increase the pressure by "re-branding" Walmart with the truth.)

Walmart could easily provide a living wage. A recent study by Demos shows it would even be in their best interest to do so because it would stimulate the whole economy. And there are signs that Walmart is feeling the heat. The CEO, Michael Duke, announced this week that he will step down. And Walmart hired a public relations firm to smear Walmart protesters. Our sense is that this effort will backfire as it shows the desperation of this Goliath that will fall to mobilized Davids. We hope that you will support the Walmart workers and press for real transformation. Imagine what a better place the world would be if Walmart began to pay workers a living wage, and also had to compensate communities for the damage it has done.

In fact, Walmart is not the only corporation that mistreats its workers; it's just the largest one. Here is a list of ten American companies that pay the least. In addition to Walmart employees, other workers are fighting for a living wage. Fast food workers and those who make supplies for the fast food restaurants have also been holding strikes and rallies. Airport workers from Seattle to Minneapolis to New York are organizing for higher pay and winning in the case of Seattle.

6 Walton heirs have more wealth than the bottom 40 percent.

As Pope Francis said in a recent speech: "Ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: 'Not to share one's wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs.'" (The sage being Saint John Chrysostom)

The Walton family should stop stealing from their employees, just so they can afford to lie in bed all day long watching TV (or whatever else it is that they do).

Recent Walmart News at the Daily Kos:

* LINK Walmart wants to take exploitation to the next level and have customers deliver orders
* LINK The Real Walmart --- Six Big Fibs in Walmart's New Ad Campaign
* LINK Stephen Colbert rips into Walmart's wage inequality
* LINK Mayor makes Walmart happy by vetoing Washington, D.C. minimum wage bill
* LINK Walmart worker fired for helping assault victim
* LINK Walmart tries—and fails badly—to push back against workers' awful stories
* LINK Bill Maher is tired of helping large companies by paying wage subsidies
* LINK If you aren't sure Walmart needs to pay higher wages, this photo will erase all doubt

Google "Bud Meyers Walmart" for my other posts on Walmart

1 comment:

  1. UPDATE: DEC. 15, 2015

    Wal-Mart claims the "OUR Walmart" campaign violated an NLRB protective order by giving documents to Bloomberg Businessweek detailing how the retailer prepared for Black Friday strikes and rallies in 2012.

    Wal-Mart hired a division of the defense contractor Lockheed Martin to monitor activist activity online and was in contact with the FBI about the protests, the report showed.

    OUR Walmart, which is now unaffiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers union, accessed the documents during an unfair labor practices proceeding at the NLRB. In its motion, Wal-Mart blames the leak on both OUR Walmart and UFCW and asks the NLRB to bar the groups from using the documents in future board proceedings.

    Wal-Mart says its surveillance activities were aboveboard; OUR Walmart and UFCW say the retailer's latest arguments are meritless.

    More from Businessweek's Josh Eidelson here:

    Read Wal-Mart's NLRB filing here: