Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hard Times in Walmartistan

The only thing more amazing than Walmart holding a Thanksgiving food drive for its indigent employees is the fact that they're even allowing one to be held at all.  Because according to one Walmart propaganda flack,"we provide good jobs and unparalleled opportunities for our associates!"

These matchless opportunities include an average hourly wage of $8.80, even after many years of toiling away at the giant retailer. Other opportunities include the ability to get food stamp assistance and Medicaid on the taxpayer dime, while the Walton family continues to amass its own unparalleled wealth. You've heard all the disgusting stats by now: the six Walton billionaires possess as much wealth as the bottom 42% of all Americans combined. They're so rich that they craft their own legislation at both the state and federal levels in order to avoid paying taxes on any of it. Their tax liability is actually in the minus category, given all the corporate welfare they rake in.

So naturally, the Thanksgiving season is an unparalleled opportunity for poor workers to experience the joy of spreading the penury. The Waltons themselves are not believed to be participating.

The Thanksgiving food drive is necessary because the average food stamp recipient is now losing a week's worth of meals due to recent cutbacks in the SNAP program. This means the average Walmart employee is probably feeling hunger pangs right this very minute, having just spent her entire month's SNAP allotment. Store execs are probably worried they'll be fainting at the registers, the thumps of falling human bodies muting the merry ka-chings in the checkout lines. And if pickings are slim this week, they'll be nonexistent next week, when Norman Rockwell legend has it that every family in America will gather together at their bountiful tables.

And for those less fortunate, not to worry: rich people and celebrities will jump into the fray for photo-ops of themselves "giving back" to poor people at Thanksgiving soup kitchens. Assuming they're not working the Turkey Day Walmart shift.

You'll never see a Walton even pretending to love the poor. They've made their careers on cheapness and hatred for working people. The clan's patriarch, Sam Walton, made paying less than minimum wage his business model when he first started the chain.

Last spring, when Walmart experienced less-than-stellar sales because even their own employees can't afford to buy their crap any more, their execs came up with a novel idea. Why not enlist volunteer shoppers to deliver packages to their internet  customers? No pay, of course -- just a voucher for discounts at some later date. The idea never got off the ground. Apparently there were liability issues, since volunteers were expected to use their own cars.

And speaking of cars and liability.... when heiress Alice Walton struck and killed a farmer's wife many years ago with her Porsche, she never offered the survivors any compensation beyond what her insurance paid, plus $2,500 for funeral expenses. She was also never charged, despite being allegedly drunk. You can read Alice's whole sordid history here.

Meanwhile, the National Labor Relations Board is reportedly planning to sue Walmart for retaliating against workers who spoke out or walked out for being forced  to work last Thanksgiving. Negotiations for a settlement are ongoing.

There's been quite an uproar in the media recently over Walmart's plans to start its Black Friday sales even earlier this year, on Thanksgiving Eve itself. But as CJR's Ryan Chittum points out, what they're missing is that Walmart has always been open on Thanksgiving, tearing workers away from their family dinners. The only day they close is Christmas. For the time being anyway.

Always the purveyor of worker oppression and cheap imports. Always.


Cirze said...

And Hillary's and the Obamas' guide to retirement.

Go get 'em, girl!

Love ya,


James F Traynor said...

Yeah, ditto, Cirze. And I still don't know where she gets the energy. Think she's keeping elves in the basement?

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Right on, Karen!

The whole "volunteer" paradigm as solution to our national problems is grossly inadequate to needs, as well as insulting to one's intelligence and morally disgusting in light of tax cuts, military spending, and other current government waste.

Rather than our nation deciding on and committing to sensible national priorities, then collecting — in a progressive manner — enough taxes to properly fund those priorities, and establishing efficient and incorruptible programs to address needs, the people are instead repeatedly prodded to "volunteer". Workers at Walmart have the opportunity to donate canned food to a drive to provide basic sustenance to fellow workers, and in general, people in the community at large are supposed to stock food pantries for the needy; in many locales, a person requiring a major medical procedure must hope to be featured in a local media story that might evoke sympathy and raise adequate donations; teachers and parents are supposed to volunteer school supplies; roadside litter here in Arizona might get collected via a community group "adopting" a particular roadway; and in Tucson, the local paper every year solicits funds to send poor kids to summer camp. The examples could go on and on.

Speaking of Walmart and their "generosity", earlier this year I saw in the Sunday newspaper coupon section a bit of what I would call "charity porn". It was apparently some sort of partnership between Walmart, Brawny paper towels, and the Wounded Warrior Project. The advertisement began, in large type "SAY THANKS TO OUR NATION'S HEROES", and continued "Sign the Hero Thank You poster at the Walmart sampling event and the maker of Brawny will donate $100 per participating store to Wounded Warrior Project".

Wow! A whole $100 per store. Oh wait, it's not even that, it's only per participating store! Also perhaps relevant, Brawny paper towels are manufactured by Georgia-Pacific, which, according to Wikipedia, "is an independently operated and managed company of Koch Industries". (Guess who owns that!) And according to the website Charity Navigator, the "Program Expenses - Percent of the charity’s budget spent on the programs and services it delivers" for the Wounded Warrior Project" stood at 57.9% (which I consider inadequate). "Fundraising Expenses" were listed as 36.3%, and "Administrative Expenses" an additional 5.6%.

(Of course, I haven’t even addressed the issues of 1) why wounded soldiers should have to rely on external charity for their needs, or 2) that they (or at least all those wounded in Iraq) would not have been wounded had they not been sent by a dishonest government on an imperialistic military adventure).

Karen Garcia said...


Here are more Koch products to boycott: