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October 29, 2003

Wal-Mart the Lawbreaker

The INS raids at Wal-Mart over the weekend arrested the wrong people-- throwing poor janitors into detention while leaving Mal-Mart executives free.

This commentary pretty much summarizes what is wrong with Wal-Mart:

Jailing janitors after a long night shift of cleaning up after shoppers isn't the answer. Ultimately, the only effective response is to reinstate America's wage and workplace standards that have been decimated over the past 30 years.

Wal-Mart pays its in-house workers only $7 to $8 an hour. The federal poverty line for a family of four is $8.70 an hour. Wal-Mart's health insurance is so costly that fewer than half its workers can afford it. Many aren't even eligible.

Lawsuits pending against the company in 30 states charge that Wal-Mart routinely forces workers to work off the clock without pay, locking them in stores until they finish cleaning up.

This is not about keeping prices low for consumers. A recent calculation based on payroll data showed if Wal-Mart gave all of its workers a $1-an-hour raise, the impact on prices would be one half of one cent.

Last year, Wal-Mart had profits of $8 billion. The CEO received $18 million in total compensation. Yet Wal-Mart aggressively violates workers' right to organize...

The cost to our society is enormous. Every day, one in four American workers does not earn enough to live on and support a family. There are now 30 million low-wage workers in this country.

With no health insurance, they are forced to go to emergency rooms for routine care. To make ends meet, they must apply for food stamps and rental assistance, use subsidized child care vouchers and draw on other government services.

This means we the taxpayers are involuntarily subsidizing low-wage employers, and in the process, are supporting a business strategy antithetical to the American dream: that hard work opens the door to upward mobility and economic freedom.

The solution is not beating down poor, undocumented workers; it's taking on the employers who create business models that drive wages down to that level of exploitation.

Posted by Nathan at October 29, 2003 12:51 PM