Saturday, April 30, 2011

Low Wages Everyday...Absolutely

This past week one of my favorite corporate entities has seen a spate of articles written about it and each article has been less inclined to paint Walmart -- the low-wage leader -- in a friendly light. I am sure the big wigs in Bentonville, Arkansas, are bristling at the bad publicity, but, the way I look at it, they have reaped what they have sown!!

Here's a rundown of the various ways the ubiquitous Walmart makes your and my life less hospitable.
Article #1: If Walmart Paid its 1.4 Million U.S. Workers a Living Wage, it Would Result in Almost No Pain for the Average Customer by Joshua Holland
A study released this week found that if the nation's largest low-wage employer, Walmart, were to pay its 1.4 million U.S. workers a living wage of at least $12 per hour and pass every single penny of the costs onto consumers, the average Walmart customer would pay just 46 cents more per shopping trip, or around $12 extra dollars each year.

Consider that the next time you hear some corporate mouthpiece warning of massive job losses if some minimally progressive policy were enacted. You never see them arguing on the cable news shows that increasing the minimum wage will hurt Walmart’s or McDonald's bottom lines; it’s always about the jobs that will be destroyed. According to the ubiquitous spin, large corporations, the embodiments of American-style capitalism, are so vulnerable to the meddling of no-nothing bureaucrats that any government intervention into the “free market” drives corporations away to sunnier locales or threatens their very existence. However well intentioned, it all ends up costing workers their jobs.

But the new study, conducted by Ken Jacobs and Dave Graham-Squire at the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education and Stephanie Luce at CUNY's Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies, suggests that low-wage employers could pay their workers a wage that would afford them a dignified existence without threatening their profitability...


Walmart and other low-wage employers are poster-children for free-market hypocrisy, claiming that the “market” dictates they pay poverty wages while shifting some of their labor costs onto the taxpayer. A 2004 study by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce estimated that just one Walmart store with 200 “associates” costs taxpayers over $420,000 per year in government assistance to the poor...

Article #2: Wal-Mart's Shocking Impact on the Lives of Hundreds of Millions of People by David Moberg
Wal-Mart casts a global shadow across the lives of hundreds of millions of people, whether or not they ever enter a Supercenter. With $405 billion in sales in the last fiscal year, Wal-Mart is so big, and so obsessively focused on cost-cutting, that its actions shape our landscape, work, income distribution, consumption patterns, transport and communication, politics and culture, and the organization of industries from retail to manufacturing, from California to China.

Yet other paths are possible, and the company would not be so influential had the world not changed to enable its metastasized growth. Had unions been stronger, especially in the South, and more devoted to organizing the growing service sector, Wal-Mart might not have become such an obstacle to labor renewal. If antitrust enforcement had not been narrowed, Wal-Mart could never have grown as big as it did. There would be no such mega-stores if state governments had not repealed Depression-era fair-trade laws. And Wal-Mart’s push of American consumer -- product manufacturing to China depended on a previously established political and technological foundation of pro-corporate globalization.

But it would be a mistake to say that Wal-Mart is merely following the new logic of retail competition, for Wal-Mart reinforces all dimensions of this emerging business climate...

Article #3: Wal-Mart Resuming Sales Of Rifles & Shotguns At Hundreds Of Stores by Eric Lach
Wal-Mart will resume selling rifles, shotguns and ammunition at hundreds of stores as part of what The Wall Street Journal calls a "major retooling of [Wal-Mart's] U.S. operations," in which the retailer is returning to shelves many "heritage categories" it pulled a few years ago.

Wal-Mart, which is experiencing its worst-ever U.S. slump, had stopped selling rifles, shotguns and bullets at all but a third of its 3,600 U.S. stores, but the change will bring the products back to about half of the locations. Wal-Mart is the largest seller of firearms and ammunition in the country...The company said that the majority of the stores that will put guns and ammunition back on shelves are in rural areas...

Article #4: Wal-Mart -- It's Alive! How the Company Is Terrorizing the Country With its Corporate 'Personhood' by Barbara Ehrenreich
What is Wal-Mart -- in a strictly taxonomic sense, that is? Based on size alone, it would be easy to confuse it with a nation: In 2002, its annual revenue was equal to or exceeded that of all but 22 recognized nation-states. Or, if all its employees -- 1.4 million in the U.S. alone -- were to gather in one place, you might think you were looking at a major city. But there is also the possibility that Wal-Mart and other planet-spanning, centi-billion-dollar enterprises are not mere aggregations of people at all. They may be independent life-forms -- a species of super-organisms.

This, anyway, seems to be the takeaway from the 2010
Citizens United decision, in which the Supreme Court, in a frenzy of anthropomorphism, ruled that corporations are actually persons and therefore entitled to freedom of speech and the right to make unlimited campaign contributions...Wal-Mart's defense against a class action charging the company with discrimination against its female employees -- Dukes v. Wal-Mart -- throws an entirely new light on the biology of large corporations. The company argues that with "7 divisions, 41 regions, 3400 stores and over one million employees" (in the U.S., as of 2004, when the suit was first launched), it is "impossible" for any small group of plaintiffs to adequately represent a "class" in the legal sense. What with all those divisions, regions, and stores, the experiences of individual employees are just too variable to allow for a meaningful "class" to arise. Wal-Mart, in other words, is too big, too multifaceted and diverse, to be sued.

So if Wal-Mart is indeed a person, it is a person without a central nervous system, or at least without central control of its various body parts...

Article #5: Wal-Mart: Our shoppers are 'running out of money' by TruthDig staff
After it destroyed neighborhood retailers, forced manufacturing overseas and helped bankrupt the middle class, Wal-Mart is suddenly surprised to learn that its customers are too poor to shop. But the company’s top brass won’t admit that they are to blame for their shoppers’ poverty. Instead, they say it’s all about high gasoline prices and plan on expanding Wal-Mart’s e-commerce division to pick up the slack in sales. Yeah, that’ll solve the problem...

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