Wal-Mart, instead of raising wages, asks their non-starving employees to donate food to those employees who are

    Walmart2bAs we’ve discussed in the past, Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, relies heavily upon the American taxpayer to subsidize its “everyday low prices,” and, of course, it’s enormous corporate profits. Not only does the company routinely, as part of its standard human resources protocol, direct its poorly-paid employees to various state and federal assistance programs, but, in at least one Ohio store this holiday season, they’ve resorted to asking their employees who aren’t yet starving to donate canned goods to their fellow employees who are. “Please donate food items here so Associates in Need can enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner,” the sign at a Cleveland area Walmart says, perfectly illustrating the depths to which to company has sunk in pursuit of ever increasing profits… which, by the way, topped $17 billion last year.

    Here, from Wall Street 24/7 is a general overview on the company.

    U.S. workforce: 1.4 million
    CEO compensation: $20.7 million
    Revenue: $469 billion
    Net income: $17.0 billion
    No. of U.S. stores: 4,759

    There are 1.4 million Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) associates working at the company’s 4,759 U.S. stores. Walmart recently announced it would launch Black Friday sales at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Critics of Walmart see this as adding insult to injury — forcing retail workers who already earn low wages to cut holidays short. Criticisms like these have been part of an onslaught of claims that Walmart underpays its workers. Walmart disagrees, saying that “for tens of thousands of people every year, a job at Walmart opens the door to a better life.” According to the company, a full-time hourly wage is $12.83. Some argue that the company’s number is inflated, however, reflecting the salaries of higher-paid employees. Hourly wages for sales associates are less than $9.00, according to Glassdoor.com. Walmart’s net income rose to $17 billion last year.

    For what it’s worth, I know that the canned food drive in the Cleveland area Wal-Mart was probably initiated by a manager who truly cares about his, or her, employees, and doesn’t want to see them go hungry over the holidays. I know that this likely wasn’t sanctioned by the powers-that-be in Bentonville, and there probably isn’t a company-wide initiative afoot to get those with extra food to start feeding Wal-Mart associates. This was likely just one person who cared, but yet wasn’t empowered to do the right thing and pay people more, in spite of the fact that the company makes $17 billion per year in profit. So I don’t want to focus too much on this one particular sign, but, with that said, its existence really does speak volumes as to the conditions under which Wal-Mart employees work.

    [IDEA ALERT: I don't know that I have time for another project at the moment, but I'm thinking that setting up a soup line outside a local Wal-Mart for their hungry employees could be really impactful. Not only would the Wal-Mart associates likely appreciate it, but it would be a great visual for the general public, driving home the fact that Wal-Mart doesn't pay a living wage.]

    And this is likely to start happening elsewhere, as Republicans in Congress voted to reduce benefits, starting November 1, for the 47 million food stamp recipients in the United States, a great number of whom work for Wal-Mart… So, keep an eye out at your local store for opportunities to help care for the starving employees who keep the shelves stocked with your favorite cheap, Chinese-made screwdrivers and five-gallon jugs of pickles.

    update: An earlier version of this story said that Wal-Mart was headquartered in Little Rock. It’s not. The company is based in Bentonville. Also, in an earlier version of this story, I noted that the sign in the Cleveland area Wal-Mart noted above was directed at the store’s customers. It wasn’t. I was directed at the store’s employees.

    [note: As I find it impossible to write about Wal-Mart without mentioning their significantly more ethical competitor, did you know that Costco employees are paid an average of $20.89 an hour, not including overtime, and that close to eighty-eight percent of them have company-sponsored health insurance?]

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      10 Comments

      1. josh
        Posted November 20, 2013 at 1:53 am | Permalink

        Walmart is based in Bentonville not Little Rock, hence the nickname the Beast of Bentonville. Not that it matters much, but the sign requesting donations was in the employee lounge, not open to customers. Nitpicks.

        Note that the company’s claimed hourly wage of $12.83 is for full time employees. Naturally, the majority of Walmart’s employees aren’t full time, because then they’d have to offer benefits too.

      2. Anonymatt
        Posted November 20, 2013 at 6:23 am | Permalink

        They were asking employees to contribute, not customers. Still appalling.

      3. John Galt
        Posted November 20, 2013 at 8:52 am | Permalink

        Personally, I find it difficult to shop when surrounded by well-fed retail employees. I find them intimidating. I like them to be more like zombies, shuffling around, stocking shelves. Bravo, Walmart!

      4. Meta
        Posted November 20, 2013 at 9:58 am | Permalink

        20 years ago, Wal-Mart had an aggressive “Buy America” campaign. They dropped it, though, when it was found out that they were using Asian child labor.

        From the New York Times, December 24, 1992:

        Wal-Mart Stores Inc. yesterday rejected accusations that some of its Asian suppliers had used illegal child labor, but it acknowledged that imported clothing had been displayed as domestic merchandise in some of its 2,000 stores.

        The accusations were made in a report on Tuesday night on the NBC News program “Dateline.” The program was seen in nearly 14 million households and drew the highest rating for the program since the weekly news magazine was first broadcast last March.

        The program raised questions about how effectively Wal-Mart monitors its import standards and whether the “Buy America” program to create jobs in the United States that Wal-Mart’s late founder, Sam M. Walton, started in 1985 was more an advertising gimmick than a substantial plan.

        David D. Glass, Wal-Mart’s president and chief executive, said in a statement yesterday that several points made on the program were “inaccurate” and “misleading.” But he acknowledged that the company, based in Bentonville, Ark., had made some errors.

        Read more:
        http://www.nytimes.com/1992/12/24/business/wal-mart-disputes-report-on-labor.html

      5. Idea Man
        Posted November 20, 2013 at 11:18 am | Permalink

        The soup kitchen outside of Walmart should be manned by Costco employees.

      6. Meta
        Posted November 20, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

        McDonalds is guilty of the same behavior.

        McDonald’s McResource Line, a dedicated website run by the world’s largest fast-food chain to provide its 1.8 million employees with financial and health-related tips, offers a full page of advice for “Digging Out From Holiday Debt.” Among their helpful holiday tips: “Selling some of your unwanted possessions on eBay or Craigslist could bring in some quick cash.”

        Elsewhere on the site, McDonald’s encourages its employees to break apart food when they eat meals, as “breaking food into pieces often results in eating less and still feeling full.” And if they are struggling to stock their shelves with food in the first place, the company offers assistance for workers applying for food stamps.

        McDonald’s corporate officers have a history of offering questionable advice to their low-wage workers. Four months ago, the company partnered with Visa to distribute a sample “budget.” In it, the chain suggested that workers needn’t pay for such frivolous expenses like their heating bills, and factored in a monthly rent of $600. To workers living in New York City (home of 350+ stores) and other expensive metropolises, that number is almost comical.

        Read more:
        http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/11/19/2970651/mcdonalds-advice-underpaid-employees-sell-christmas-presents-cash/

      7. Posted November 20, 2013 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

        I meant to mention it earlier, but thank you, Josh and Anonymatt, for your comments. I edited the story accordingly.

      8. jcp2
        Posted November 20, 2013 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

        Costco does not compete with Walmart. The number of SKUs is much less, and Costco clearly goes after a different demographic (American Express is the only accepted credit card). There is also the barrier of the annual membership fee, the need for private transportation to get to the store, and the ability to store large amounts of the the same item. A better analogue would be Target. However, despite similar labor practices, Target has a more hip vibe to it, and is given a pass by the same people who would boycott Walmart.

      9. Posted November 21, 2013 at 8:50 am | Permalink

        @jcp2

        Walmart is actually Costco’s #1 competitor, via Sam’s Club, which is wholly owned and operated by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

      10. jcp2
        Posted November 21, 2013 at 9:40 am | Permalink

        That’s like saying GM is BMW’s biggest competitor, via Cadillac. Different sales channel, different marketing, different expected ROI. I’m not defending Walmart, but comparing Target to Walmart would be closer. Costco to Walmart is like comparing American Girl to Toys ‘R Us.

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