Commentary

NCSU student paper speaks the truth about Wal-Mart

One of the best newspaper editorials of the week in North Carolina can be found in The Technician — the student paper at N.C. State. It’s a take down of the Walton family of Wal-Mart infamy (and its many predations) entitled “Save money, exploit the poor.” After highlighting the fact that the company is closing hundreds of stores around the country, including 17 in North Carolina, the authors say this:

“So why is Wal-Mart closing so many stores all at once?

Looking at Wal-Mart’s stock prices for the past year, they do seem as though they have significantly decreased. However, when you look at trends for the past five years, they seem fairly typical, especially considering that shares peaked at $91.35 per share in January 2015. Another indicator that Wal-Mart isn’t closing stores due to financial difficulties? They still plan to open 300 new stores in the coming year. 

Wal-Mart as a whole is not suffering, though the Walton family would have you believe otherwise. The Waltons, with more wealth than the lowest 42 percent of American families combined, is the richest family in the U.S. It’s hard to imagine that the company ranked No. 1 in Fortune 500’s 2015 list of largest companies by revenue is hurting so badly. An annual revenue of $482 billion, Wal-Mart’s economic weight is comparable to the GDP of Norway.

In an effort that seems like damage control, Wal-Mart released the news that it will be substantially raising its minimum wage, with more than 1.2 million employees receiving pay raises. Assuming this does more than account for the inflation of the past few years, such an upgrade is long overdue, considering the employer’s past discrepancies, such as eliminating healthcare coverage for many part-time workers and raising the premiums for health plans in 2014.

Wal-Mart’s actions likely come from a place of fear that its top spot is in danger. It’s anxious to revitalize the business that has shown possible signs of slipping. 

If the company had executed these actions with any sort of grace, then it would have seemed marginally human. What Wal-Mart has instead indicated is how completely it regards its employees as disposable — almost as disposable as those local business owners who suffered from those now-closing stores being established in the first place.”

Commentary

The good and bad in Wal-Mart’s underwhelming pay raises

raise the wageIn the giant banana republic of haves and have nots that the U.S. economy has increasingly come to resemble, any bump in the pay dosed out to front line workers by a company as huge and generally predatory as Wal-Mart — however modest — is a good thing. When a half-million people are able to take home a few more bucks a week, that’s good for them and good for the companies with whom they shop…like Wal-Mart. So hooray for the news.

Lest anyone get too moist in the eyes, however, and/or start cranking out humanitarian award nominations for the Walton family gozillionaires, it should be noted that the raises (1.1 percent for the average full-time wage over the next year, to $13 an hour and 5.2 percent for part-timers to an average $10 an hour, by February 2016) still leave those workers bringing home incomes much too low to live on. As the Associated Press reports about the new wage rates:

“Both fall below the $15 an hour ‘living wage’ many union-backed Wal-Mart employees have been pushing for. Driven by rising income inequality and a decades-long decline in middle-class jobs, workers are also campaigning for steep wage hikes at other major non-unionized employers, including McDonalds and other fast food chains….

In Fayetteville, Arkansas — near the company headquarters — a single parent of one child would need to earn $16.85 an hour, almost $4 an hour more than Wal-Mart’s pay raise for full-time workers, according to a living wage calculator created Amy Glasmeier, a professor of economic geography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The calculator examines the costs of food, housing, transportation and medical care around the country.

In pricier parts of the country, the living wage is far higher: In Philadelphia, it rises to $19.68 an hour. In San Leandro, California, one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s more affordable suburbs, a single parent’s living wage is $23.22.”

The living income standard for a worker with one child in North Carolina averages $16.21 per hour.

Of course, the real solution to the problem of poverty level wages for workers across America would be a sizable bump in the federal minimum wage. President Obama has proposed raising it from $7.25 per hour to $10.10, but obviously, a genuine living wage would be significantly higher.

As the Los Angeles Times editorialized this morning, Wal-Mart’s actions should send a signal to Congress that it’s well past time for such action. Let’s hope fervently that such a message gets through ASAP.

But don’t hold your breath.

Uncategorized

Video offers amazing statistics on Wal-Mart and Food Stamp use

Photo credit: Think Progress

Photo credit: www.thinkprogress.org

As Policy Watch Reporter Sarah Ovaska has been reporting regularly of late, obtaining Food Stamps and the failure of North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services to process applications in a timely manner remain big problems for lots of needy people.

One way to solve this problem, of course, would be for the McCrory/Wos administration to start doing its job and get claims processed properly. Another solution, however, that might have an even greater and more beneficial impact would be to raise incomes of people currently reduced to relying on Food Stamps — people like the workers at Wal-Mart.

Click here to read an amazing story and watch a compelling two-minute video about how the giant retailer (and the place where more Food Stamps are spent than anywhere else) could lift thousands of people out of poverty and save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars per year just by paying workers a decent wage. And the impact on Wal-Mart prices of such a shift? Just over 1%!

Uncategorized

BREAKING: NLRB sues Walmart in North Carolina and 13 other state for worker’s rights violations

As noted in board’s press release today:

The consolidated complaint involves more than 60 employees, 19 of whom were discharged allegedly as a result of their participation in activities protected by the National Labor Relations Act.  The Office of the General Counsel alleges that Walmart violated the Act when:

  • During two national television news broadcasts and in statements to employees at Walmart stores in California and Texas, Walmart unlawfully threatened employees with reprisal if they engaged in strikes and protests.
  • At stores in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Washington, Walmart unlawfully threatened, disciplined, and/or terminated employees for having engaged in legally protected strikes and protests.
  • At stores in California, Florida, Missouri and Texas, Walmart unlawfully threatened, surveilled, disciplined, and/or terminated employees in anticipation of or in response to employees’ other protected concerted activities.

More to follow.