This is supposed to be a cheery season for retailers. Not at Wal-Mart (WMT), though, where it’s been a really bad week—and this is only Wednesday.
On Monday, the Cleveland Plain Dealer broke the news of a holiday food drive at an Ohio Walmart store—for its own employees. The newspaper story, including a photo of the bins set out for the donations, quickly made its way pretty much everywhere. And it came from OUR Walmart, a group of union-backed employees pushing for higher wages and better working conditions.
A New York-based think tank released a report today questioning Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s assertion that the city’s long-term debt is responsible for its fiscal problems, or that pension contributions are at major hurdle for the city’s finances.
Instead, the report by Wallace Turbeville, a senior fellow at Demos, a public policy organization, said Detroit’s decline into bankruptcy was caused by a steep decline in revenues partially due both to a shrinking tax base and deep cuts in state revenue sharing with the city.
In its house editorial yesterday, USA Today retold the now-accepted story of Detroit’s bankruptcy. Railing on “reckless public pensions,” the newspaper told its readers that the Motor City is “Exhibit A for municipal irresponsibility” because it allegedly “negotiated generous pensions” that were too lavish.
Walmart, enmeshed in a debate over low wages highlighted by a food drive for employees at a Canton store, can significantly raise the salaries of sales clerks and other workers without having to find additional money for the pay hikes, says a research brief by a think tank.
Walmart can easily afford to raise pay for its low-wage workers by $5.83 an hour, to an average wage of $14.89, a new report from progressive think tank Demos concludes. All the retail giant has to do is stop its massive stock buybacks—which only serve to enrich a shrinking pool of shareholders, not to improve productivity—and put that money toward its workers.
Walmart spends $7.6 billion a year buying back shares of its own stock:
“We are on strike today to have respect and dignity at work,” says Walter Melendez, one of approximately 40 Los Angeles port truck drivers who walked off the job at 5a.m. morning in protest of alleged unfair labor practices. The strikes featured the rolling “ambulatory pickets” that the truckers have excelled at—chasing down trucks as they leave the port and setting up picket lines in front of them.
In the past week, both a senior editor at Fortune magazine and the liberal think tank Demoshave made similar proposals for how Walmart could greatly increase worker wages without harming its business prospects.
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