A Walmart Thanksgiving — Poverty Wages and Worker Intimidation

November 27, 2013 | | The Hill |

This month may prove to be one of the most historic in Walmart’s half-century-long existence. On Monday, Walmart announced plans to replace CEO Michael Duke, who has presided over depressed sales figures, bribery scandals, and controversy over the company’s poverty-level wages.

On Black Friday, Walmart workers and their community allies will mount protests at 1,500 retail stores across the nation – the biggest day of protests in Walmart’s history – for higher wages, more full-time jobs and an end to employer retaliation. [...]

The disastrous economic consequences of Walmart’s bad jobs and worker intimidation are now well known. Taxpayers pick up the tab for the company’s poverty-level wages. The company’s employees are often so poor that they and their dependents are among the nation’s biggest users of food stamps, health programs for low-income individuals and other forms of public assistance. This public subsidy of the nation’s largest corporation, owned by its richest family costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars per year. But those who suffer the most from poverty-level wages are its employees. In Canton, Ohio, a Walmart store last week held a food drive for employees who cannot afford a Thanksgiving meal.

Walmart could immediately stop intimidating workers, improve their conditions and pay a minimum wage of $25,000 per year for full-time work. Last week, the think tank Demos reported that if Walmart stopped buying back shares of its own stock – which adds nothing to its productivity — it could afford to raise employee wages by almost $6 per hour without increasing retail prices. In 2012, the company spent $7.6 billion to buy backs shares.

This week, Fortune magazine wrote that the number one headwind facing Walmart’s new CEO, Doug McMillon, would be “wage outrage.” This week’s protests at retail stores across the nation will give him a small taste of the outrage he can expect in the coming year. 

Read the full reportA Higher Wage Is Possible