Saturday, April 2, 2005

Direct Action: Wal-Mart Fact Checker

Forgive me if this post is not as coherent as it should be - I spent an hour on it earlier today, and then my browser choked on me. Boo Firefox!

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the nation's largest union with over 1.8 million members, often stands up for those in the working class (and the not so working class - for the future residents reading, you can join the Committee on Residents and Interns, one of the main groups helping to enforce resident work hours). The SEIU has a record of pushing for health care reform, such as opposing President Bush's fiscal year 2006 Medicaid cuts (which failed to pass the Senate in a 52-48 vote - thank your Senators, especially the Republican ones, for voting against this cut). One of the SEIU's current campaigns, via its Purple Ocean network, is to spread the facts about Wal-Mart.

Now you can pick many reasons to dislike Wal-Mart, but the one thing about Wal-Mart that really irks me is their continued union busting behavior. I'm coming at this from a biased perspective, as my family is very blue-collar and pro-union, but I personally believe that labor unions are one of the few ways that the poor and the working class can actually achieve "The American Dream" and raise themselves up by their bootstraps. This is my personal beef with Wal-Mart, but there are other cracks in the House that Walton built.

There is actually a great report written by Representative George Miller (D-CA) on Wal-Mart's Labor Abuses and Hidden Costs linked on the Joe Hill Dispatch Wal-Mart Beat. The SEIU has some interesting facts as well, including:

Wal-Mart sales clerks made an average of $8.23 an hour or $13,861 year in 2001. That's nearly $800 below the federal poverty line for a family of three. (Source: Business Week)

In Georgia, Wal-Mart employees are six times more likely to rely on state-provided health care for their children than are employees of any other large company.(Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Reliance on public assistance programs in California by Wal-Mart workers costs the state's taxpayers an estimated $86 million annually. (Source: UC Berkeley Study)

In the first decade after Wal-Mart arrived in Iowa, the state lost 555 grocery stores, 298 hardware stores, 293 building supply stores, 161 variety stores, 158 women's apparel stores, 153 shoe stores, 116 drugstores, and 111 men's and boys' apparel stores. (Source: Iowa State University Study)

Every year Wal-Mart purchases $15 billion worth of products from China. (Source: Washington Post)

Today Wal-Mart uses over 3,000 Chinese factories to produce its goods almost as many factories as it has stores in the U.S. (3,600). (Source: L.A. Times)

All else being equal, U.S. counties where new Wal-Mart stores were built between 1987 and 1998 experienced higher poverty rates than other U.S. counties. (Source: Pennsylvania State University Study)

So what's a person to do? First, let others know the truth about Wal-Mart. Second, resist the low prices and stop shopping there. Take note that Sam's Club is also owned by Wal-Mart, and shop at Costco instead (they pay their employees better, and if you are a Democrat, they contribute to your candidates). Third, write a letter to Wal-Mart letting them know how much you appreciate their corporate practices (Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Bentonville, Arkansas 72716-8611 1-800-WAL-MART). In all fairness to Wal-Mart, they also have a webpage listing the good they do for their communities.

Whew - how's that for a first post?


Matz said...

There's also a good radio documentary available on the American Radioworks site about Walmart's relationship with cheap chinese manufacturers. The long supermarket strike in California is largely attributed to Supermarkets fears of Walmart coming in with low wages and anti-union policies that will put them out of business. The ripple effect demands that Walmart competitors also slash wages and benefits to be competitive; in the end Walmart costs everyone (not just it's employees) wages and benefits.

michael said...

$8.23 an hour or $13,861 a year comes out to working 32 hours a week. BOOHOO! Do you know how much residents make? Assume 30K at 80 hrs a week times 52 weeks... that's $7.21. Cry me a river.

Garrett said...

Yeah, 32 hours, because Walmart avoids hiring people for much more than that to avoid paying full-time benefits. And, because Walmart is notoriously bad about not giving set schedules or letting employees know their schedules too far in advance, Walmart employees can't even get a second job because no other employer will put up with that sort of inconsistent availablity.

Yeah, so we're in residency for like a few years, and we're underpaid. And then we make over 100k a year. As the market goes, sure, doctors get hosed like crazy while our friends who took jobs out of college (or went to law school) make quick bank. But Walmart employees don't suddenly see their salaries jack up to 100 bucks an hour like some doctors do.

michael said...

it seems as though i've been misinformed. oh well.