Thursday, November 22, 2012

The trouble with going to Walmart

We know much about Walmart. Walmart is big business. It cuts into other businesses in a communities. And most of the products it sells come from other countries.

But what it does to it's own employees is a matter that seems to be missed in much of the media.

Walmart employs 1.3 million, making it the largest private employer. On average the starting salary at Walmart is $15,500. This puts a two-person family at the poverty line. Walmart also skimps on paying overtime to workers. When workers do make more money they get pushed out of jobs, to keep the workforce from taking too much of the profits (from managements view.). Also, no unions have able to gain a foothold within the corporation, as of yet, to allow workers to achieve any change. Of note, in Alabama this poor pay rate forces 4,700 kids on to Medicaid to get by. This is an intended result of the pay strategy, to put employee benefits pressure on Medicaid. By allowing it's workforce to fall below the poverty line, the government takes on the cost of their health care, food support, etc. Here's a chart to show the impact of Walmart's scheme on the whole country:

$1.5 billion in tax dollars. Just so Walmart can post an extra billion and a half in profit. Millions of which go to the CEO. And much more into the pockets of the Walton family. So you go to Walmart spend hundreds to buy their products, then you pay your taxes and fund them further. All the while the Waltons will support efforts to get their tax rates cut further.

How much money in their in this business? The CEO of Walmart makes $18 million a year. And the profits for Walmart were $15.7 billion in 2011. Efforts to get better treatment for workers, in the wake of these high executive salaries and massive profits, continue. But management disregards the concerns and needs of workers.

And the result of this has been the beginning of attempts to strike against mistreatment by Walmart management. And come tomorrow, Black Friday, strikes will begin in earnest. Up to now, Walmart has prevented any real dissent. It looks like things are shifting.

What Walmart has been doing isn't too different from what many businesses do, trying to minimize what it pays and offers workers. It is really all too common. And that is sad. Now, I understand the desire to maximize profits, but as Henry Ford understood long ago, you want a workforce that can actually buy your products. This should be immediately obvious to the largest private employer in a country. It is truly pathetic shortsightedness. As noted here, paying better only improves the state of a given industry and an economy as a whole. But businesses don't bother. And Walmart has the power to ignore it's impact, while doing small acts to try and look better.

We need to move them to change. Workers are beginning to believe they can have some affect. But part of this can also come from boycotting Walmart. At least on Black Friday. We can hope to make a mark on their profits to make them consider how they treat their workers, and how they damage the economy.

Additional Resources:

OUR Walmart Strike Took Kit

Stand With Walmart Strikers On Black Friday

No comments: