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Nader writes: "Walmart's most recent attempt to advance their bullying brand of profit-over-people hit a snag this week when the District of Columbia City Council voted to approve and send to the mayor a 'living wage bill' which mandates that billion-dollar big box retailers must provide a $12.50 'living wage' in the District."

Consumer Advocate, Ralph Nader. (photo: Scrape TV)
Consumer Advocate, Ralph Nader. (photo: Scrape TV)


Shame on Walmart!

By Ralph Nader, Reader Supported News

13 July 13

 

hen one considers Walmart's company slogan - "Save money. Live better." - it almost seems as if they are referring to their corporation's big shareholders - the super-rich Walton family - rather than their employees or the communities they squeeze. After all, Walmart is the same company that has recently made headlines for firing workers for verbally protesting against unfair wages and lack of health care benefits. This situation forces Walmart employees to work second jobs or rely on government assistance to make ends meet.

According to a recent report from the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, the low wages provided by a single Walmart store costs taxpayers upwards of $1 million in governmental support for those workers and their dependents. "The report finds that a single 300-employee Wal-Mart Supercenter in Wisconsin may cost taxpayers anywhere from $904,542 to nearly $1.75 million per year, or about $5,815 per employee. Wisconsin has 100 Wal-Mart stores, 75 that are Wal-Mart Supercenters."

Walmart's most recent attempt to advance their bullying brand of profit-over-people hit a snag this week when the District of Columbia City Council voted to approve and send to the mayor a "living wage bill" which mandates that billion-dollar big box retailers must provide a $12.50 "living wage" in the District. According to a background briefing from the council, the cost of living in the District is 42 percent higher than the national average - meaning fairer salaries are a necessity for workers in the District just to meet their basic expenses.

A similar disagreement between Walmart and a city council occurred in Chicago several years ago, with Walmart ultimately prevailing when then-Mayor Richard Daley vetoed the city's proposed living wage ordinance.

In a preemptive op-ed in the Washington Post, Walmart executive Alex Barron described the D.C. Council's pending decision on the living wage bill as one that "discriminates against business and threatens to undo all that we have accomplished together." After the vote, Walmart issued a statement declaring that their stance had not changed and that they would "review the financial and legal implications" of the D.C. stores currently under construction. "This was a difficult decision for us and unfortunate news for most D.C. residents, but the council has forced our hand," said Walmart's spokesperson.

Mr. Barron and his fellow executives should be ashamed of themselves.

I sent D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray five questions to consider in deciding whether he would support or veto the bill passed by the city council. These questions should be answered by any community considering the value of a Walmart store.

- If the 1968 minimum wage kept pace with inflation, it would be $10.70 today. If it kept pace with worker productivity, it would be $22 today. If it kept pace with the wealth of the top 1 percent of earners, it would be $33 dollars today. In an April 4, 2013 letter to me, Walmart U.S. CEO Bill Simon wrote that "in the U.S., Walmart's full-time, average hourly wage is $12.67 per hour." Given these facts, shouldn't Walmart be willing to pay workers in D.C. $12.50 an hour minus benefits, which is how the bill is written?

- Walmart's top executives each make thousands of dollars an hour. Walmart CEO Mike Duke makes $11,000 an hour plus great benefits and perks. During the length of a city council session, Mike Duke will make more than many Walmart employees working a full year! Clearly, he could afford a pay cut. Is it fair for Walmart to say it cannot afford to pay workers in D.C. $12.50 an hour minus benefits?

- Costco starts their workers at $11.50 an hour plus benefits and is a profitable company. Walmart itself is profitable in Ontario, Canada, where it starts its workers at $10.25 as well as providing them with two weeks paid vacation. What is stopping Walmart from treating Walmart workers in the District of Columbia with the same level of respect?

- Walmart recently announced a new $15 billion stock buyback. They have already used $36 billion to buy back stock throughout the past four years, which averages out to $9 billion a year. Since the billionaire Walton family owns over 50 percent of company stock, it is likely that they will be a beneficiary of most of these billions. If instead of transferring billions of dollars to the Walton family, Walmart had chosen to use the money to a pay a more respectable wage, they could have given each of their 1.3 million workers a $3.30 per hour raise. Why does Walmart have another $15 billion lying around to buy stock but empty pockets when it comes to paying $12.50 an hour minus benefits to D.C. Workers?

- A study from UC Berkeley's Center for Labor Research and Education has shown that raising a Walmart wage floor to $12 per hour would add - if all of the wage increase was absorbed by price increases - just $0.46 per trip for the average Walmart customer. Again, this is the highest estimate, as portions of the raise could be absorbed through other mechanisms, including increased productivity or portions of the stock buyback being rolled back. How can Walmart claim a $12.50 minimum wage minus benefits is untenable?

Back in 1968, Sam Walton - the founder of Walmart - had to pay his workers wages that were worth much more than wages today because the law required it of him. In that light, isn't it hypocritical that Walmart's official stance now, as articulated by Mr. Barron, is that providing workers a more livable wage in the District of Columbia in 2013 is "arbitrary and discriminatory" and "discourages investment"?

In the District of Columba and other communities throughout the country, it's time for Walmart bosses to acknowledge that supporting an increase in the minimum wage would help restore the income of 30 million hardpressed American workers - including Walmart employees - to the level of 1968, inflation-adjusted, and provide our floundering economy with a much needed jolt. (See "The Catching Up To 1968 Act of 2013" [H.R. 1346] introduced by Rep. Alan Grayson [D-FL] which, if passed, would raise the minimum wage to $10.50.)

 

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+37 # tinkertoodle 2013-07-13 12:10
Is exactly why I avoid Walmart like the plague and would rather go to other businesses such as Publix they may cost a little more but I am wholly against the way Walmart treats it's employees they should all be ashamed of themselves the greedy SOB'S When are these big corporations going to realize it is in their own best interest to pay their workers better if a person has money to spend on the kind of things they sell are they going to spend it when they have some extra cash in their pocket when they're worried about where their next meal is coming from or if they'll have a roof over their head
 
 
-7 # Maturus 2013-07-13 12:24
Evidently Mr Barron is no Sam Walton! How do their remunerations compare?
 
 
-11 # barbaratodish 2013-07-13 18:31
UH OH! Nader writes:"Walmart 's most recent attempt to advance their bullying brand of profit-over-peo ple hit a snag this week when the District of Columbia City Council voted to approve and send to the mayor a "living wage bill" which mandates that billion-dollar big box retailers must provide a $12.50 "living wage" in the District." All the "Billion dollar big box retailers" are probably now going to repackage everything in small boxes to get away with their "profit over people" strategy! I want to know how the DC people are SOOOO resourceful that they can find and be employed by 2 employers, when I have to commute to China for work! Ralph Nader, help me stay in this country by listening to my "ELEVATOR PITCH" for Walmart hiring me freelance, etc., to write for them. A subtle change for their motto: "Save Money Live better" might be :"Transcend competition, Experience cooperation". My underlying agenda, though, is to meet you again, for longer than we met at FDU!
 
 
+10 # Rita Walpole Ague 2013-07-14 05:21
Thank you, Ralph Nader. If only you had been elected. We are in dire need of true people servers like you in today's anything but 'liberty and justice for all', U.S. of (greed and power) A.(ddiction).
 
 
+19 # SageArtisan 2013-07-14 05:50
So let me get this straight. Mike Duke makes $11,000 an hour. That comes out to $183 a minute and $3.05 a second, even while blowing his nose or taking a dump. If he works an 8 hour day he makes 4 times more in an 8 hour day than what 4 Wal-Mart employee’s make at $7 an hour for 365 days, and they don’t work a full 365 days because Wal-Mart doesn’t want to let them have full time status because they would have to provide them with benefits.

Duke makes $88,000 a day for a full 8 hours’ work. If an employee making $7 an hour works 32 hours a week they only net $11,648 a year. That means that Duke makes in a day what 8 Wal-Mart employees make in a year.

Members of the Walton family net $6.8 million per day $285,388 per hour and $4,756 per minute $79.27 per second.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Something is very wrong with this picture. The fact that this company is a pet favorite of Dick Cheney is obvious. I refuse, and have refused to shop at Wal-Mart for this very reason for the past 6 years.
 
 
+7 # MidwesTom 2013-07-14 07:37
There is a smaller WalWart south of here that 20 years ago had a painting on the side of the building saying "Everything made in America". They have long since painted over that painting. Today they should say "Nothing made in America". Americans are addicted to the cheap prices at WalMart, and WaMart has been the biggest destroyer of jobs in this country of any company. Unfortunately, I do not see any reversal on the horizon, WalMart is the largest employer in the country, and in a sad note Kelly Temporary Services is the second largest employer. I am afraid that when people over 50 now all die off, their wealth, whether big or small, will be taken by the government, and the whole country will be living in a much poorer WalMart land.
 
 
+3 # reiverpacific 2013-07-14 08:43
"-the living wage bill as one that "discriminates against business and threatens to undo all that we have accomplished together."
I like the way that these fat-cats feel like they can speak for all "business"!
I'm a tiny anchovy in the ocean of business but I wouldn't insult anybody with any kind of quality experience to work for me -on the few occasions I've been able to hire anybody - for
 
 
+1 # reiverpacific 2013-07-14 12:45
Quoting reiverpacific:
"-the living wage bill as one that "discriminates against business and threatens to undo all that we have accomplished together."
I like the way that these fat-cats feel like they can speak for all "business"!
I'm a tiny anchovy in the ocean of business but I wouldn't insult anybody with any kind of quality experience to work for me -on the few occasions I've been able to hire anybody - for

I guess I got cut off in mid-flow there.
To continue;
"-less than $15.00/ H,r unless they are students or apprentices who are learning the trade -and I still do my best by them and gave 'em a good lunch into the bargain.
If a thing's worth learning and doing, it's worth investing in good, dedicated people and I've never failed to learn something of value from each person.
Maybe that's why I'm fairly poor financially these days but there's more to wealth than money, contrary to the Thatcher/Rand/W alton theorem.
I've been in Walmart exactly twice and find them depressing, tacky, lightless, joyless dumps with stuff all over the floors and no attempt at quality, clear display.
And they never buy the land they build on when they infest a chosen and back-door dealmaking area. They take out a 99-year "lease" with escape clauses that allow them to close up and walk away if things don't work out for them, leaving the ugly and space absorbing big-box as a dilapidated and deteriorating concrete behemoth-dinosa ur to the community who let then in.
 
 
+6 # djnova50 2013-07-14 09:01
My sister works for WalMart down in Florida. Her pay rate is over $13/hour. She has insurance; but, she is also covered under her husband's TriCare. Right now, she is on medical leave recovering from knee surgery. I asked her if she would still be able to go back to her job at the same pay rate. She said that she should be able to. WalMart let her come back after she had her mastectomy. But, even she admits that WalMart is not the same company it was when she first started working for them. As an aside, she told me that if Sam Walton were alive today and saw what his children had done to his company, he'd fire every last one of them and bar them from working at any Walmart store ever.
 
 
+3 # tomo 2013-07-14 11:48
I can't see why anyone shops at Walmart. People who shop there seem to me like ants eating the poisoned carcasses of other members of their species.
 
 
+3 # Eliza D 2013-07-14 13:54
As usual. Mr. Nader has a panoply of vivid, relevant facts to make his case against WalMart. My favorite is that the CEO, Mike Duke, makes $11,000 an hour for presumably, sitting at meetings where he strategizes how to make another penny or two on every item he sells, while employees probably tear their hair out figuring out how to make their few pennies cover their bills. WalMart embodies so much of what is wrong with our selfish,ignoran t, mean-spirited "consumer" culture. Boycott them. I have never shopped at WalMart and never will. I have a taste for items that will last a lifetime, and are not make of plastic. I don't know that WalMart ever sold anything of that sort.
 

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