Thursday, August 21, 2008

Walmart: Where Exploiting People Is The Law

image At this time I was not able to find a lot of information on Walmarts effect in Canada.  When I am able to amass enough information I will dedicate a post directly to that.  This blog post will deal primarily with Walmart in the United States.  After examining the data it should be more than obvious that Walmart is an evil corporation.  When we spend our few disposable dollars there we are culpable of participating in a vicious cycle of exploitation.

Year after year Walmart achieves record sales and earnings. When a Walmart comes to town property value for businesses immediately declines. It is assumed that small mom and pop businesses will have to close because of an inability to compete with Walmart. Annually, Walmart drives down retail wages three billion every year. It purposefully short staffs, and keeps the number of full-time staff low. Full-time workers are living at a poverty level and cannot afford Walmart health insurance. Keep in mind that for Walmart, full-time constitutes twenty-eight hours per week. In Florida Walmart has more workers eligible for medicare than any other company. USC Berkeley did a study and concluded that Walmart costs eighty-six million per year to California tax payers, and up to twenty-five million more to country tax payers picking up the tabs for health care, income tax credits, housing subsidies and food stamps.

Alabama: 3,864 children of Walmart employees are enrolled in Medicad
Arizona: 2700
Walmart workers are on medicade
Arkansas: 3,971
Walmart workers are on public assistance
Florida: 12,300
Walmart workers and dependents are on Medicade
Georgia: 10,261 children of
Walmart employees are enrolled in peach care for kids
Massachusetts: 4,172
Walmart workers and dependents are on state health care
Tennessee: 9,617
Walmart workers are on Tenncare
Texas: 4,363 children of
Walmart employees are on Chip
Wisconsin: 1,252
Walmart employees and dependents are on Badger care
Federally:
Walmart costs 1,557,000,000.00 to support its employees.

 Walmart is notoriously anti-union. It illegally shows videos to staff saying that unions will not protect them and will cost them money needlessly. This is despite the fact that Walmart routinely asks employees to work off the clock. They imply if the worker does not consent to this that they will be replaced. They have also been charged with hiring illegal workers and locking them in their stores at night. This is a health and safety risk as well as a violation of labour law. The federal poverty level for a family of four is 17,650 and a full-time Walmart sales associate earns 13,861 annually. They are currently facing lawsuits in 31 states for wage and labour abuses, involving hundreds of thousands of workers.

Labour in China: The employees must labour seven days a week and reside in a Walmart issue apartment. The rent for their apartment is deducted from their salary whether or not they occupy the place. The apartments are small, filthy and do not have adequate space for cooking. The cost for a worker to assemble a product in China is eighteen cents, that same product will retail for 14.96. In 2004 Walmart imported 18 billion from China.

Labor in Bangladesh: Walmart employees 189,000 women sewing garments. These women brush their teeth with their fingers using ashes from last nights fire because they cannot afford to buy toothpaste or a tooth brush. They work from 8am to 10pm for thirteen to eighteen cents per hour seven days per week. They are often beaten by their supervisors if they fall behind schedule.

 Walmart tries to tell the world that they care for others. They have an in house program wherein employees are encouraged to donate money to other employees in need. In 2004 Walmart employees donated over five million dollars and the Walton family gave a stunning six thousand dollars. The Walton Family had a net worth of ninety billion dollars in 2004. They have cumulatively donated less than 1% of their wealth to charity whereas Bill Gates has donated fifty-eight percent. And the final insult to injury, in the 2004 tax year the Walton family received a federal tax break of 91,500.00 per hour. Do you still feel like shopping there?


24 comments:

tanglad said...

Some additional thoughts about Walmart that I gleaned from my students, many of whom worked at those giant mega-stores. They were all considered part-time employees, capped at working 38 hours a week, to reduce the number of employees eligible for benefits. But, as many of my students pointed out, they incur the same level of expenses. Especially the single mothers, who had to pay for daycare but missed out on important benefits like dental care for their kids.

Danny said...

Year after year Walmart achieves record sales and earnings.
Just like big oil companies. Gas prices constantly climb because "it costs more to produce usable fuel". But for some odd reason that same companies are reporting record level profits. And when I say record level I'm talking CEOs making BILLIONS a year.


When a Walmart comes to town property value for businesses immediately declines. It is assumed that small mom and pop businesses will have to close because of an inability to compete with Walmart.
Sadly this is the case. Walmart has been known to use the tactic of setting up shop in a town, keeping its prices low until the competition is driven out of business, and then raising its prices. That (plus the way they treat employees) is part of the reason why there are lots of towns (in America anyway) that will actively petition against a Walmart being built in their area.

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

Excess is the demise of a nation and Walmart plays a huge role in that. They are sick and disgusting. I feel sick being near Walmart and not even going in.

sardonic sister said...

I grew up in Small Town, USA, and when the Wal-Mart Superstore was established, the mom and pop stores disappeared. I absolutely HATE Wal-Mart. Now, I live in a big city where I have lots of options of where to buy groceries. However, in my hometown, you can either shop at Wal-Mart for its low prices or pay out the rear at Kroger (whose prices are higher just to stay afloat.)

Anybody love Target? :)

AR said...

...thirteen to eighteen cents per hour...

Numbers like this are meaningless by themselves. How much do people not working at Wal'Mart make in Bangladesh? Or is their income difficult to quantify because people without sweatshop jobs are instead forced to crime, starvation, or backbreaking sustenance farming?

The federal poverty level for a family of four is 17,650 and a full-time Walmart sales associate earns 13,861 annually.

What do these numbers even have to do with each other? Why should a single full-time job necessarily pay enough to support 4 different people?

Renee said...

At the wage averages out to less than 1 dollar per day, how well do you think that they are living?

AR said...

At the wage averages out to less than 1 dollar per day, how well do you think that they are living?

Check your privilege; not everyone in the world gets to judge their job prospects by American standards. I'm not saying that, compared to the cushy lives of people with Internet access, these people have it easy. I'm saying that the alternative to many of these workers is to work as prostitutes, as sustenance farmers, or to simply die. This as actually happened many times when Western companies bow to pressure to close sweatshops in poor nations.

And it's not just a question of individual jobs. These sorts of things let poor nations become more wealthy as a whole. Exporting it's cheap labor is a huge part of the fact that China has doubled it's per-capita GDP every 10 years for the past several decade. For comparison, Britain took 58 years to do the same at the start of its industrial revolution, a process which was probably only so slow because Britain didn't have other, wealthier nations to invest in it, an advantage that Bangladesh does have, but which you apparently want to deny to it.

Renee said...

I completely own my privileges in this instance. I believe you are actually trying to justify this kind of exploitation. No matter where you go in the world 1USD per day is not a living wage.

AR said...

No matter where you go in the world 1USD per day is not a living wage.

You'll have to clarify what you mean by living wage, because I can't imagine any definition besides a privileged Western one excluding $1 in Bangladesh as a living wage.

I believe you are actually trying to justify this kind of exploitation.

I am, because for many of the world's poorest workers this "exploitation" is the best thing to happen to them since the invention of agriculture. What are you saying should be done here? That Wal'Mart pay all it's foreign workers the same as they'd have to pay Americans? Well, then they just move their factories to America to save on shipping, and many workers go from making $1 a day to making $0 a day, and if, as you say, you can't live on $1 a day in Bangladesh, you certainly can't live on 0.

It's like your saying that, until they can get productive enough that their workers demand American wages, we won't hire them, but if they want to get the wealth needed to raise productivity by exporting one of the only things they have, cheap labor, well, tough luck! I guess they'll just have to hope capita rains from the sky, and in the meantime, it's back to farming, prostitution, and starvation.

I mean, I guess if humanity were so collectively altruistic that we just improved these poor nation' infrastructure out of kindness, that'd work to, but the fact that they're in this situation to begin with shows that this isn't the case, so of course I'm going to defend the next best thing for poor workers.

AR said...

Opps, "capita" should be "capital." Heads raining from the sky wouldn't help anyone!

Renee said...

No what I am saying is that companies need to pay a living wage.. paying less than a dollar a day and then making insane profits in the west is exploitation. The next best thing for poor workers is not to be treated like informal colonial subjects my western states.
I further disagree with your argument regarding human nature. Capitalism and the Cult of I is a recent historical phenomenon.

AR said...

Capitalism and the Cult of I is a recent historical phenomenon.

The specifics of modern capitalism may be fairly new but the concept of self-interest is not. Wealthy ancient Egyptians or Greeks didn't have any moral qualms about keeping slaves; I doubt they would have refrained from globalization out of respect for our common humanity had they been presented with out world-shrinking transportation technologies.

No what I am saying is that companies need to pay a living wage.. paying less than a dollar a day and then making insane profits in the west is exploitation.

I still don't know what you mean by "living wage." Regardless, I can tell that you're saying companies should pay more than they are, but what you don't get is that being required to do so would simply cause them to leave. The only reason they're there in the first place is because of the cheap labor; you can't have it both ways. If we required Wal'Mart to pay what we'd consider acceptable wages, they'd just move their factories here, American wages would go up and some Bangledeshis would starve.

Renee said...

The only reason they're there in the first place is because of the cheap labor; you can't have it both ways. If we required WalMart to pay what we'd consider acceptable wages, they'd just move their factories here, American wages would go up and some Bangladeshis would starve.

Your assuming that I approve of a capitalist mode of exchange which I certainly do not. All of your responses are dependent upon continuing this irrational system.

AR said...

You obviously do approve of it, since you approve of "living wages," whatever that is, which implies the existence of wages of any type, which implies the buying and selling of labor in some sort of market.

But really, I've only been assuming you want to raise global standard of living, and for that trade has so far demonstrated itself to be among the best ways to do it.

Though, what alternative are yo suggesting? And even if you got America to stop being capitalist, what makes you think the rest of the world would go along with it? Or are you trying to argue how we should help poor Bangledeshis based on how the world would work if everyone followed your plan for utopia?

Renee said...

Living wage is pretty clear...enough money to buy things like toothpaste, tooth brush etc which the women of Bangladesh clearly cannot do as Walmart employees.
Much of South America is already socialist leaning. The only reason the West continues on this way is because they don't want to give up privilege. That the wealth we have is predicated on a history of enslavement and torture of others is something that is oft forgotten is our drive to consume.
It is not my Utopia plan. I think that I have made it very clear on my other posts in relation to class that I am a Marxist. Global trade has not raised the standard of living for all, it has only raised the standard of living for a small percentage of the population. The rest of the world essentially functions as neo-colonies.

AR said...

Living wage is pretty clear...enough money to buy things like toothpaste, tooth brush etc which the women of Bangladesh clearly cannot do as Walmart employees.

Floride toothpaste wasn't invented until 1914, and wasn't developed enough to receive ADA approval until the 1950s. If it weren't for Western wealth, the highly effective toothpastes we have couldn't be bought for any price because they wouldn't exist.

Global trade has not raised the standard of living for all, it has only raised the standard of living for a small percentage of the population.

If that's what you actually think I can only say you're very ignorant about the world. The embrace of market economies and global trade has been a defining feature of rising standards of living. For instance, Vietnam. Many people in the world only wish they were so fortunate as to work in Nike's Vietnamese sweatshops. Or Mauritius, which has the lowest child mortality rate in all of sub-Saharah Africa in large part because of the wealth brought to it by removing its trade barriers.

I think that I have made it very clear on my other posts in relation to class that I am a Marxist.

I'm surprised such people even still exist. You'd think the universal failure of command economies would have told you something, but I guess not.

Daisy said...

A new one is opening right outside of our apartment complex... it has totally TRASHED THE NEIGHBORHOOD and I hate their guts for it.

There is one only 6 miles away, too. They never stop, they need to take over the fucking world.

Roxie said...

I really do not like walmart and shop there as little as possible.

in the place I live there's not much I can do instead...go to Target? eh.

some times I feel trapped. how to get out? I could learn how to sew and make all of my own clothes, grow all my own food, clean with vinegar and lemons, but then what about electronics?

Renee said...

Again AR these western advances would not have been possible without the hyper exploitation of the so-called third world.
I cannot believe you are praising global trade despite all the horrors that the IMF and WB has brought to this world...do some more research.
As for communism as communism is concerned, it has never been practiced as envisioned by Marx so you can hardly call it a failure.

AR said...

Pure capitalism as Ann Rand envisioned it has also never been practiced, but I think I can still say it wouldn't be a good idea before hand.

And we don't need a practical example of communism because anyone can tell how flawed it is even in principle. I must question whether you actually are among those so misfortune as to have read Marx's irrational drivel, because if you have you'd know that his goals are actually very close to the ways in which it was implemented. The subsequent corruption was merely a natural consequence of the tremendous concentration of power he sought to create.

On an unrelated note, if I type in "womanist" into the Google search bar, it suggests "womanist musings" as a search phrase. How about that!

AR said...

I forgot to mention: Incidentally, capitalism by Rand and communism by Marx are fundamentally the same delusion. Marx assumes that the leaders of the Communist Party would never take advantage of their power, and Rand assumes that wealthy people would never take advantage of their power. Once you've assumed something like that, what economic system wouldn't work?

Renee said...

WOW cool to know that google likes me. Before I counter argue AR, I would like to say that even though we are in disagreement I find this to be a very stimulating conversation...

Yes I have read Marx and Engels. Capitalism was never meant to run alongside communism. Communism is the ideal state which is reached through a progression...capitalism, socialism, then communism. What this essentially comes down to is the what you believe the essence of human nature to be. If you believe that we are all ultimately selfish then obviously you cannot embrace Marxism. Marx did not envision power being held ina few hands, what he called for was the dictatorship of the proletariat. Since the poor make up the largest % of the population it would not amount to tyranny, at least economically speaking.

AR said...

Yes, this has been an interesting discussion.

Capitalism was never meant to run alongside communism.

I think that's backwards. It is communism that cannot exist next to capitalism, because the promises of wealth capitalist societies offer to the most competent individuals causes "brain drain" in adjacent states. That is why even Marx foresaw the need to persecute would-be emigrants.

Besides that, there's the fact that a community existing within a capitalist society can simply become communist if it so wishes by pooling their resources and making decisions collectively. The problem comes when they then try to force that decision on everyone else.

Communism is the ideal state which is reached through a progression...capitalism, socialism, then communism.

Yeah, but it's that middle part that's so bothersome, and it is there that everything goes to hell in actual implementations. But hey, even that wouldn't be a problem if communism consisted of people entering into it voluntarily. Then surely, if it is as great as they say, others will willingly enter as well...

What this essentially comes down to is the what you believe the essence of human nature to be. If you believe that we are all ultimately selfish then obviously you cannot embrace Marxism.

It's not that black and white. No reasonable person believes humanity is completely selfish, or we'd never have gotten anywhere at all, but nor can it be expected that humanity is completely selfless, or we'd have no evils to correct in the first place. Personally, I think that most people are mostly decent most of the time, but will seek their own interests within those limits if given the chance. It is in that last part that one finds the tremendous motivating power of the free market.

There are other considerations as well. All economic systems are ultimately systems for the distribution of resources, which for any community of significant size is an extremely complicate proposition. People use "exponential" as shorthand for "grows extremely fast," but the number of possible interactions in a population of n people is factorial in n, which is a much faster rate of growth than any mere exponential! This is another useful aspect of market economies, as it harnesses the collective power of the population in a sort of distributive computing, mediated by prices, that results in getting people the resources they want the most. The thing that distinguishes this from pure communism is the signaling power of prices, which tells people with a resource to use (like labor) what it is that, not just the community, but what the entire economy most wants that can be produced by that resource. Then, they make their buying decisions based on their wants and the prices of what they want, thus balancing what it cost to produce the products in question with how much benefit they gain from owning it, and in so doing further influencing, to a small degree, the price signals being sent to producers of all kinds.

A market economy by itself isn't perfect, of course, but of course I wouldn't want to live in a pure market economy. Modern America is itself a good bit away from pure capitalism on the sliding scale of capitalism-socialism. We have minimum wages, progressive income taxes, numerous sorts of (questionably effective) social aid, a nationalized defense industry (by which I mean the military itself), courts, public defenders, workplace safety laws, consumer protection laws, and so on.

It could be better, and I agree with a lot of what you regard as problems, but I think the solutions lie within socialist mechanisms within a mostly market economy, because at least some market elements must be retained for the tremendous power they have. We've been talking about capitalism vs. whatever, but in practice, "capitalism" almost always actually means "mostly capitalism."

Zoray said...

I'm glad to say I've never shopped at WalMart, and probably won't, considering they don't exist where I live at the moment (Though I'm sure local department store chains are probably doing their own fair share of exploitative business practices).
I'm loving the Marxism vs. Capitalism debate. Very thought provoking.