Posted 10:15 a.m. Dec. 4
by Bernard Pollack
U-WIRE (DC BUREAU)
(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON–Many are hailing Wal-Mart’s record-breaking 1.4 billion dollar day over Thanksgiving as an early sign indicating high consumer spending this Christmas season. Customers continue to flood Wal-Marts nationwide due to their cheap and low cost products. Yet, in the spirit of the Christmas season, it is due time customers ask themselves if it is worth spending their holiday earnings somewhere else in light of Wal-Mart’s treatment of its employees at home and abroad.
For instance, Wal-Mart refuses to allow its one-million employees in the United States the opportunity to share in their success. While five of the ten richest people in America are Waltons, Wal-Mart employees, most of whom are not permitted to work full-time, typically gross less than $11,000 per year. This salary is not enough for workers to afford healthcare and meet basic living requirements. In fact, over 60% of employees are without health insurance, predominantly women, and can’t afford the company’s health insurance premiums which rose 30% last year.
Wal-Mart has been accused repeatedly of violating the right of its employees to form and join unions. For instances, when butchers in Jacksonville, Texas voted for a union, Wal-Mart announced that meat cutting would end in 180 stores. The National Labor Relations Board has issued more than 40 complaints in 25 states. Wal-Mart’s anti-union tactics run the gamut from illegally spying on associates, interrogating them, restricting them, and holding them up to ridicule, to illegally firing them and withholding pay, promotions and benefits in retaliation for their support for unions.
Wal-Mart is also the most sued retailer in the nation. In Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Washington, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, and West Virginia employees are suing Wal-Mart stating that they were prevented from having their overtime pay, lunch breaks, and being forced to work “off the clock.” In Maine, Wal-Mart was ordered to pay a fine for breaking U.S. child labor laws resulting in the largest payment in state history. Finally, employees in California are suing Wal-Mart for sex discrimination in pay, promotion and compensation.
Overseas Wal-Mart is perhaps even more destructive, especially towards women. Rosen Ellen in The Women Who Work for Wal-Mart reports that women who make pants in El Salvador earn 15 cents for each pair and they are forced to take pregnancy tests; Wal-Mart sells these pants for $16.95 in its U.S. stores. In China, at a Wal-Mart toy factory, The National Labor Committee described the miseries of workers who toil 13-to-16-hour days molding, assembling, and spray-painting toys, seven days a week, for 13 cents an hour. In addition, they report that the workers typically live in crowded squatter shacks or company dorms for which they pay $1.95 per week in rent. Yet, while workers overseas make meager wages, Wal-Mart’s assets total more than the GDP of 155 of the 192 countries in the world, with annual sales of more than $137.6 billion.
Given this information we might want to re-consider the ramifications of how our spending habits this holiday season will affect Wal-Mart workers at home and abroad. As we shop this season the gifts we give must reflect our values, and a willingness to spend slightly more for products from companies that care about their employees. Therefore, we must ask ourselves individually, if Wal-Mart’s prices are low enough to justify their actions.