community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
This is a critical over view of Wal-Marts labor and buying practices in response to its interest in a town south of Pittsburgh
Wal-Mart: Coming to a Town Near You!
The world’s largest retail outlet has its eyes set on another small community in rural America. With land already sold to outside developers, Waynesburg Pennsylvania’s township supervisors have been approving preliminary blue prints for proposed retail industry near Interstate 79. Although the official disclosure of the proposed business identity has remained quiet, small leaks and general speculation are laden with the shadows of the Wal-Mart juggernaut.
With short term development and tax growth at the forefront of the elected official’s agenda, the long term repercussions of Wal-Mart on a community have been cast aside in lieu of capital and special interest construction bidding. Limited numbers of concerned citizens and local unions from area grocers have been voicing their concerns in public forums. Much to their dismay, their questions have been shrugged with exclamations of “Sorry, this is too much to late,” or “You see there’s nothing we can do for you.” With no one readily taking responsibility for opening the development window, combined with lake of education and apathy on the subject, it appears Greene County is ripe for a Wal-Mart takeover.
While Wal-Mart may boast its current position as America’s number one employer, committed to serving its communities, staff, and country, the truth about its labor practices are another story that becomes more complex daily. When a corporation that employs so many turns over one half of its staff annually 1, there is more than meets the eye going on behind closed doors.
Although Wal-Mart claims it is not anti unionization, its third party free philosophy has fostered an environment that is no way conducive to the general well being of their immense staff. In addition to “competitive wages” that cannot adequately sustain the type of families in which the retailer targets, health care is almost non existent. More than two thirds of the company’s employees can not participate in the health care plan that would be equivocal to draining one fifth of their average pay checks 1. With the Walton’s families net worth being estimated at 102 billion, less than one percent of that overwhelming figure could provide adequate coverage for their enitre staff 1.
Unfortunately, the accumulation of capital comes at the expense of Wal-Marts employees. In a strikingly inconsistent paradigm, the nation’s number one employer in 1970 was General Motors. Their overwhelmingly unionized labor force averaged 17.50 and hour with health care, pension plans, and vacation time 1. These are categories that new largest employer knows little about. On the other hand, not only has the new labor Frankenstein turned its back on its workers, it has on its country and communities.
Avoiding unionization and fair labor practices is not only practiced inside the hallowed halls of Wal-Mart, there is a reason those prices can stay so low. Combined with unfair advantages that destroy competitors and independent business owners, Wal-Mart looks to cheap over seas manufacturing for its products. A local New York State Union offered a five hundred dollar bounty for the person that could find the largest list of countries from various product labels in the nearby Wal-Mart store. The winner of the contest identified forty non American made products in a mere sixty minutes 2.
Even “Made in the USA” tags in Wal-Mart are subject to scrutiny. Between 1994-1998, Wal-Mart imported 7.3 million pounds of clothing made in Saipan, a U.S. Commonwealth in the South Pacific. With an estimated value of 7.3 million dollars, the Commonwealth status of the tiny nation enabled Wal-Mart to stamp, “Made in the USA” stickers on the items. Unfortunately for the workers in Saipan, their Commonwealth status did not make them eligible for United States minimum wage statutes; they were receiving only 3 dollars an hour for their efforts 3.
Wal-Mart is a central figure in a vicious circle of poverty and despair. Through investments in foreign markets, their prices crush all competitors taking no prisoners. Simultaneously, while employing so many, they systematically decrease the quality of life for America’s workers thus forcing them to shop at the cheapest outlet. Completing the circular configuration, the cheapest outlet also happens to be them. In essence, Wal-Mart has become a reincarnate of the “company store” our great labor movements helped eliminate some time ago.
Wal-Mart is a rapidly evolving creature, with rising popularity of Sam’s Club, gas outlets, E commerce, and music (censored to Wal-Mart’s standards), this beast shows no signs of stopping. As members of a thinking population and of the working world, we owe it to ourselves to get educated and activated to help keep Wal-Mart out of our every day lives.
2) Quinn, Bill. How Wal-Mart is Destroying America (And the World).
Some economists have argued that global trade and cheap products are good for the American economy. Low prices allow even low-income households to purchase baubles.
Alas, even though an American can go to Wal-Mart or to Family Dollar and spend $500 for 500 items, that American still cannot afford the $800 per month premium for health insurance, $500 for housing, $200 for utilities, and so on through the unemployment benefit check. Moreover, just as the employment practices of Wal-Mart hide the cost to taxpayers of having to provide food stamps and health care to the corporation's employees, taxpayers have to subsidize the garbage collection and landfill space taken up by those 500 items that quickly break and get tossed out with other trash.
Spending money at Wal-Mart or dollar stores for necessities should not give any low-income American pause. However, any person who has any money left over after necessities can protest the promotion of cheaply-made foreign products and low-wage employment, while supporting the production of American goods. Spend the non-necessity money at your local business for locally-made, locally-grown, or locally-identified goods. You won't be able to buy 500 items, but what you do buy could just make you even happier.
Check the Docs section of this site for a great study on Walmart, low road vs high road, & globalization
Check out Aldi as well. They are the answer to Wal-Mart in Europe...particularly in Germany. I visited them in many places in Europe and the store models are virtually the same as the stores in the US, with stripped down brand selections and no-debt financing to enhance profit, all to demolish small competition.
Just research the recent Business Week article on Aldi.
by rapture Tuesday, Apr. 20, 2004 at 7:05 AM
Where will white flight hicks like yourself get their moon pies, NASCAR hats, and "Left Behind" books?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought you people loved Wal-Mart?
Kramer, I shouldn't even indulge you in discourse based on your comments but if you would ever like to see how "hicks like me" spend my days get in contact with me and we can arrange something. A movement needs to be united and not factionalized by bigotry.
Hasta La Victoria Siempre!
I recommend anyone looking to stop walmart from coming to their town to study what Compton, CA just did and how they kept the beast out of their LA community.
First NWA, now succesful anti walmart campaigns.
People of Great Britain, beware of Asda, Walmart, rebranded, repackaged and coming to a town near u, but still exactly the same company.