Wal-Mart Workers Don’t Earn Enough to Cover Thanksgiving Dinner

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News this week that a Wal-Mart store in Ohio was holding an employee-to-employee food drive “so Associates in Need can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner,” reignited the debate over the low wages Wal-Mart employees earn. More than half of Wal-Mart employees earn less than $25,000 a year, and a slew of labor protests have occurred over the past year. Even Ashton Kutcher got in on it:

Mother Jones says that Walmart could pay its workers more by shuffling money away from buying back its own stock:

According to the report, “A Higher Wage Is Possible,” Walmart spends $7.6 billion a year buying back stock. Those purchases drive up the company’s share price, further enriching the Walton family, which controls more than half of Walmart stock (and for that matter, more wealth than 42 percent of Americans combined.) If Walmart instead spent that money on wages, it could give each of its 1.3 million US employees a $5.83 per hour raise—enough to ensure that all of them are paid a wage equivalent to $25,000 a year for full-time work.

Unfortunately, if the choice is to drive up the company’s share price, or pay their employees more, as a business the retail giant will choose the former. Today, Wal-Mart workers and supporters will announce a plan to protest Black Friday.

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20 Comments / Post A Comment

EvanDeSimone (#2,101)

I’m always struck by the fact that even though WalMart is widely regarded as a terrible employer AND a bad corporate citizen these perceptions don’t seem to have any impact on their bottom line.

sea ermine (#122)

@EvanDeSimone I would imagine that a significant chunk of Walmart shoppers shop there because they can’t afford to shop elsewhere, because they work for Walmart or work for somewhere else with just as shitty wages. There are also a lot of areas where Walmart basically drove out most existing businesses there and so Walmart might be the only place to shop.

garli (#4,150)

@sea ermine Fair point. It’s easy to not shop at walmart where I live now (I’m not even sure where the closest one is – at least 30 minutes drive away) but when I was in college there weren’t a lot of options.

EvanDeSimone (#2,101)

@sea ermine @garli Exactly! That’s why there needs to be regulation. We can’t expect corporations act in favour of the public interest of that of their employees because there’s no profit incentive to do so. My point isn’t so much that people shouldn’t shop at WalMart as that there need to be rules governing how much advantage they can take because the market won’t reign them in alone.

RiffRandell (#4,774)

Can anyone name some non-evil corporations? I’ve got this whole Wal-mart+ McDonalds pay absurdly little while Costco actually pays a living wage concept down. Any other intel from people who follow this stuff on what companies pay decently? Aldi lets their checkout workers sit down- which seems like something more grocery stores should do. Any other good examples?

highjump (#39)

@RiffRandell unions and a voice on the job are important to me where I shop. Even if they are still low wage workers my Safeway Kogods and Giant cashiers have a career ladder, retirement plan, and protection. American Apparel’s ads are pretty gross but the sweatshop free and made in America thing is sadly unique. H&M signed the post-Bangladesh factory safety accords and they have good copyright policy for artists. After some union busting a few years ago IKEA is now treating their employees better and they have a lot of green initiatives.

There are very few Costco-level non-evil corporations but there are a good number of medium-evil corporations. Do the best you can.

Stina (#686)

@RiffRandell Aldi and Trader Joe’s (same owner) do offer their employees relatively better hourly wages and benefits vs. other stores. Home Depot has better hourly wages, don’t know about benefits.

hotdish (#1,868)

@RiffRandell Google treats their employees phenomenally well. They cover 90% of health insurance premiums, offer generous vacation, unlimited sick leave, 7 weeks parental leave (more for women who give birth – 4-5 months at least), and of course the pay is quite high.

sea ermine (#122)

@Stina Trader Joes also (I think) offers health insurance, even if you’re part time. And fairly frequent raises.

RiffRandell (#4,774)

@sea ermine @hotdish @stina @highjump Thank you all! Aldi, Trader Joes and H&M are great tips! Just trying to put my dollars where my ideals are, you know? And I know small business is the way to go in that department, but sometimes that just isn’t happening.

squishycat (#3,000)

@hotdish Google is very good to employees who don’t work on the tech stuff, too, including contractors (the people who work in at least some of their cafes technically work for another company). I don’t know specifically about pay but they get the same benefits as other employees. (There’s plenty of stuff that Google does on other levels that is perhaps not un-evil, but in terms of how they treat their employees, they are phenomenal. They offer domestic partner health benefits, and by that I mean I am on my boyfriend’s insurance even though the only legal relationship between us is being on the same lease.)

sea ermine (#122)

@RiffRandell Even with small businesses it’s hard to tell! I’ve definitely meet people who worked at small business where the owner is very wealthy but underpays their employees and offers no benefits because they “can’t afford it”. That said they’re generally a much better bet.

Oh, on the topic of grocery stores definitely do not shop in Trade Fair. The union their workers in has protested against them multiple times, and they’ve locked out their employees more than once (and this is just the one in my neighborhood). They also labeled meat as halal that wasn’t halal and when they employees found out and tried to stop it they stopped paying them. So…yeah.

themmases (#1,959)

@RiffRandell Jewel-Osco is unionized in the Chicago area. It’s a grocery/pharmacy so you can’t do all your shopping there, but I always know a few people who appreciate boozy gift sets or candy.

Wal-Mart is actually directly attacking Jewel in the Chicago area. They put in some absurd mini-Walmart (mostly a grocery section, or so I hear since I won’t go there) on my block within sight of the Jewel and a Whole Foods, and have run ads in our market comparing their food prices to Jewel specifically.

We are already losing another union grocery store in the area– Dominick’s– and lost at least one more in the early 2000s when the Eagle chain went out of business. So I see what Wal-Mart is doing as particularly evil because they are literally attacking one of the last decent grocery jobs for my neighbors.

cjm (#3,397)

@RiffRandell WinCo in the west is employee owned. Even though they are non-union, I have heard they are a good place to work as a grocery store employee.

Kthompson (#1,858)

Hey now, those Waltons actually earned their millions you know! By, uh, being born into the Walton family. Or marrying into it. If that’s not pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, then I don’t know what is!

aetataureate (#1,310)

@Kthompson Ahahahaha. Too soon!

Eric18 (#4,486)

@Kthompson What about Sam Walton, the founder? Did he just stumble into the business?

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

Perhaps I’m missing the obvious, but doesn’t Walmart already meet minimum wage and other requirements? (I don’t live in the States, so I don’t know if Walmart is exempted from meeting the relevant regulations).

If Walmart is meeting it’s regulatory obligations, then what is the issue?

cjm (#3,397)

@WayDownSouth Several things. The minimum wage is not enough to live on for non-single people. $7.25 per hour. Which is about $14,500 a year if full time (before our social security taxes are taken out). The poverty line for a family of 2 (one parent, one child) is $14,937.
Second, Walmart has consistently given workers less than full time work to avoid certain regulations, and to avoid paying overtime. If that worker is only given say 30 hours a week, their pay is now $11,310.
Now, remember in the US we have to pay for our own health care. The Walmart plan (for 2011) cost $850 per year and had a $4,400 deductible. So, a family that has 1 emergency room visit ($1,000)

cjm (#3,397)

@WayDownSouth Several things. The minimum wage is not enough to live on for non-single people. $7.25 per hour. Which is about $14,500 a year if full time (before our social security taxes are taken out). The poverty line for a family of 2 (one parent, one child) is $14,937.
Second, Walmart has consistently given workers less than full time work to avoid certain regulations, and to avoid paying overtime. If that worker is only given say 30 hours a week, their pay is now $11,310.
Now, remember in the US we have to pay for our own health care. The Walmart plan (for 2011) cost $850 per year and had a $4,400 deductible. So, a family that has 1 emergency room visit ($1,000)is paying $1850 a year in health expenses. So now the annual wage, after health is $9,460. Lets assume that the worker can get to work by bus and has no car. Where I live, that is $80 a month. Now they have $8,500 left.

That is $708 a month for rent, food, additional health care, medications, clothing, childcare & utilities. If the 2 person family lives in a $400 a month apartment they have just $308 left. I believe they would be eligible for food stamps, and certainly free and reduced price lunch.
What Walmart is doing is paying people and providing work that is only reasonable for part time workers who are in school/ high schoolers/ or people who have a second income to truly support them. They are guaranteeing that people who rely on the job to actually support themselves and one child will need to receive government aid.

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