Samuel Moore "Sam" Walton was an American businessman and entrepreneur born in Kingfisher, Oklahoma best known for founding the retailers Walmart and Sam's Club. He was born on March 29, 1918 and died on April 5, 1992. At about $89 billion when he died, Bill Gates wasn't the number one wealthiest man until Sam Walton died. | Photo: Walmart
After tucking the kids into bed at the end of a long Thanksgiving Day with family, I drove to my local Walmart last Thursday night to stand in solidarity with a small but important movement of nationwide protests taking place on Black Friday this year. As Colin Powell said a year ago
during the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, a good old-fashioned protest is "as American as apple pie
". And anyway, I just figured my right to dissenting disapproval or boycott is a way, through me, of letting the so-called invisible hand do what it does. But I expected to arrive and find other people just like me who were deeply concerned and for the same reasons. Having lived much of my life in the conservative South, I have mostly Republican friends. On Thursday night, I expected to see a lot of them there. I expected to see Tea Party conservatives and other Republicans there to protest and make a little noise with me. They weren't there. None of them were
. They stayed at home. Some of them though, I think, were actually shopping inside the store.
Liberals learned a long time ago that Walmart sucks and that they treat their workers like dirt. This is an established and well-known fact. But some people it seems are either unaware or just okay with this. The employees are paid next to nothing. The company uses a loophole and refuses to give most employees full-time working hours so it can legally pay the fewest benefits possible. From day one with the company, workers are forced to watch videos intended to manipulate weak and intimidated minds toward the evils of organizing with fellow workers to shape a better workplace, and to create a better life. In its 50-year history, Walmart has managed to avoid unionization, crushing it where even the appearance and smell has crept up. Though Walmart denies it, an abundance of proof and testimony exists to show the company's retaliation tactics toward workers who have so much as only considered organizing with one another. In fact, a few auto department workers at one store in Canada did form a union back in 2005. How did Walmart respond? They shut the store down the exact same day and it's never reopened since. Unions aren't the problem. And they're not even the solution. Unions ought not to even be necessary.
In addition to this, Walmart applies the same low price and low wage pressure upon its suppliers, impacting thousands if not millions more of American jobs. In many cases, just like at the Rubbermaid plant, once an economic bedrock in Winchester, VA, and although the household items maker initially resisted but later succumbed, Walmart has pressured their suppliers to sell at such a low price that wages have been completely slashed and in example after example, the manufacturing and production jobs have gone to Mexico or to China. At least 85 percent of all the products sold at Wal-Mart are made outside of the United States.
According to the Economic Policy Institute:
Walmart was responsible for $27 billion in U.S. imports from China in 2006 and 11% of the growth of the total U.S. trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2006. Walmart's trade deficit with China alone eliminated nearly 200,000 U.S. jobs in this period.
I challenge anyone to fill a shopping cart at Walmart with products "Made in the USA". You can't do it. The corporate retail giant depends upon Chinese slave labor for its supplies. It makes the owners and shareholders very happy. Walmart has a direct and on-going relationship with 20,000 Chinese suppliers. Yes, that's right--Communist China is Walmart's number one supplier. And to think that Sam Walton once wrote a book by this title. The profiteer knows no patriotism. For these and other reasons, liberals have long despised this company and its greedy ways.
But why would a redneck boy from Alabama go and stand in the dark for a few hours on the edge of Walmart's property to holler with a few crazy lefties out protesting corporate greed and unfair working conditions instead of just staying home to watch football or lining up for the next door-busting deal? The answer is simple. Listen to me conservatives! Listen to me Republicans! How can you support a poverty wage and at the same time bitch and bellyache about people on food stamps? Have you put any thought into this?
Here are the facts: The average Walmart employee working 34 hours per week makes just over $15,000 per year on an average wage of $8.81 per hour. Most Walmart employees are among the 25 percent of all American workers making less than $10 per hour. As much as 80 percent of Walmart workers are on food stamps and add up to some of the largest recipients of Medicaid in many states. By the droves, Walmart kids and families are on the All Kids or Peach Care programs. In Arkansas, they call it ARKids First, but in fact it should really be called "Walmart Kids First" since they make up the majority and highest number of beneficiaries.
Shouldn't someone tell the Walton family that there's no such thing as a free lunch? Nearly two billion dollars annually burden the American taxpayer to subsidize the low-price, low-wage cost for a mega-corporation who profits each year between 15 and 20 billion dollars. This year, the store set a new precedent by opening on Thanksgiving Day at 8:00pm nationwide, two hours earlier than the previous year. In the first four hours, between 8:00pm and midnight, the company claims it processed 10,000,000 transactions at its cash registers, swiping an average of 5,000 items per second.
I hear my conservative friends whining and griping a lot about social programs. I hear them complaining about people who need assistance for food. I hear often the phrase that echoes from a 1976 campaign speech that Ronald Reagan gave about a "welfare queen" driving a Cadillac on the south side of Chicago. But as it turns out, one of the biggest welfare queens in this country doesn't live in Chicago. She doesn't live in downtown Detroit. She lives in Bentonville, Arkansas and she's sucking over five million dollars per day from the government dole and bloating our national debt even greater! She's the wealthiest damn family in the whole wide freaking world. Where are you conservatives? Where are you Tea Partiers? I can hear Ronald Reagan rolling in his grave. These are our tax dollars and we're trying to pay down an overblown national debt while one of the richest companies in this land is having us subsidize their shortsighted greed that forces millions of American workers into a life of government dependency. This is not capitalism. This is not the free market. These are not Republican values. Or are they?
No one I know is suggesting any sort of everyone makes an equal amount form of society. To me, that's not even a utopia or an ideal world. I'm glad that there are some individuals who are very wealthy. I'm glad that others have plenty with six and seven figure incomes. I'm glad that some people had really good ideas; or that other well-paid executives play very important roles in sustaining those good ideas. I'm glad that there's a system in place and a country where people who worked really hard on their idea can see their work pay off in great and rewarding ways. I'm glad that others were born into wealth and abundance and not the opposite like most new citizens of this world in other lands. I'm glad that some were indeed standing in the right place at the right time. It's really good for them and sometimes even us that they were lucky. Sometimes, it takes more than just a little. It's good that other wealthy members of our society can and have been rewarded. I'm glad that many of them give significant amounts to charities and choose to do really good things with their earnings or inheritance. Throughout American history, many wealthy individuals have contributed to worthy causes and funded things like non-profit hospitals, which have literally saved countless lives and made us better as a society. I'm glad that some wealthy individuals and groups of them choose to be "job creators". Clearly, we need even more of them. What I'm disparaging and would like to see demolished are the "poverty job creators". They have weakened our great nation in inconceivable ways. Their existence is abysmal for society and for America.
So why pick on Walmart? Aren't other retail stores and other companies doing the same thing? Yes, but as the "low price leader" and "retail giant", Walmart sets the standard for other businesses, particularly other retailers. The company employs over double the amount of their closest competitor. If Walmart were to lead by doing what is good, right, and smart, others would follow. Just choose not to work there? Walmart has 1.4 million American employees. Someone has to work there. It could be a really good thing that hundreds of thousands of people work at what could be such a fine American company. As one protestin
|Sustainable capitalism, that's all. It's essential to our existence going forward.|
g Walmart employee planning to strike on Black Friday in Dallas said last week
, "If you change Walmart, and you change corporate America, it can really better a lot of people's lives
." To change Walmart is to change the lives of millions of American workers and would make our economy one that is vibrant and strong.
A few conservatives have responded by telling me that no one forces these Walmart workers to be employed for such little pay. "If you want a better job then you need to just do something about it yourself," they say. "It's your own fault. Your economic destiny is your own." Well, is it entirely? And does this truly solve the dilemma of low working wages and poverty jobs in America? As a society, clearly we can't have everyone just go and become a top-tier wage earner. Everyone can't just go and become a doctor or an attorney. Not everyone can be a manager. At a certain point, we'd have more doctors than patients and more lawyers than lawsuits. Or imagine if every single person just started their own business. Clearly, there's no way for this to work.
If we are to have a consumer-based economy where retail has become the number two largest industry in America, then millions of people have to work these jobs. Those same millions of Americans must be able to consume and purchase using the compensation earned from their input of labor. We must increase wages to sustain our economy and to support ourselves. Walmart and others can do it without cutting into profits. In fact, profits will increase. It's a win/win/win; for workers, for Walmart, and for America. But the inability to see beyond the instant gratification of low labor costs and higher profits now, in only this quarter and next, disables the decision makers from having at least as much forethought as a country boy from Alabama like me who barely passed college math on his third attempt. They just think they can do it a different way and still win. Maybe they can and maybe they have for a while, but it will not last forever. Walmart's labor practice and their entire model is truly unsustainable in the long run.
What we want for everyone is just an honest day's wage for an honest day's work. Right here in America, we've got people busting their ass day in and day out, working hard at their second and third part-time jobs only to live a life of forced dependency upon food stamps so they and their families don't starve to death gathered around an empty dining room table. As the Demos.org report released last week points out, for Walmart to pay a living wage by raising prices less than $50 per shopping family per year, would lift nearly one million American workers out of poverty and dependency upon government social programs. This seems like a reasonable and low-impact increase with the average U.S. family already now spending $4,000 annually in the store. Does anyone really think that Americans would no longer shop at Walmart due to an increased cost of less than one dollar per visit? As more working Americans have money in their pocket to spend, the more the system is stimulated, thousands of new jobs created, and how much greater and stable our nation's economy will be. There's no excuse not to employ this big-picture, long-term approach. It's the responsible and smart thing to do. One of the first and greatest American businessmen, Henry Ford, understood this basic idea: that you must pay your workers enough for them to buy your product. We don't just need more millionaire and billionaire job creators. We need more middle class job creators! This can be done. It must be done.
For our economy to function well, workers must be properly compensated. A thriving economy is impossible without it. Our system can be a very good one. But it only truly works when it works for all of us and not just a few. Raising wages is a smart idea. It creates thousands of new jobs as millions more can spend and consume, increases sales and profits, and lifts American workers out of a life of dependency and poverty. We must increase the working wage. For all of our own self-interests, including Walmart's own, we must have an economy that works across the board, with liberty and justice for all, and not just some. Sustainable capitalism, that's all. It's essential to our existence going forward. Hopefully, the few greedy bastards in power now will gain just a little foresight and start to make positive steps toward that very thing sooner rather than later, and before it's too late.
What good did the Walmart protest do this year? That long-term effects remain to be seen. For the first time in the company's five-decade existence, hundreds of workers walked out on the job in an organized way and hundreds more concerned citizens joined nearly 1,000 different protests in 46 states. Even non-striking workers caught a glimpse of the potential and power of co-workers coming together to demand positive change. For one of the few times in its history, Walmart has now acknowledged publicly the questions being raised nationally about the strain their business is upon the U.S. economy as well as the detrimental economic and social effects which stem from their labor, supplier, and pricing practices.
This protest is a good first step and has gained some great attention. All social movements & societal progress begin with education and information. This effort does just that. Maybe next year or next time, a few of you others will join me and join the growing number of informed and aware, concerned citizens. It's time to get off the couch! It's time to wake up! This is extremely important for our future and it impacts us all every single day. We just need a few more people who are brave enough, courageous enough, and crazy enough to think that they can do something about all the bullshit in this world. Together we can and together we will.
This is not a liberal versus conservative issue. This is not a Republican versus Democrat issue. This is not a partisan issue at all. This is an American jobs and economy issue. It's time for fiscally worried conservatives to join hands with socially concerned liberals in the fight against this corrupt corporation which has conducted its calamitous practice in our great country for far too long. You'd have to be a Communist loving, poverty job creating, food stamp supporting, economy crushing, anti-American fool to shop at Walmart. At least for now, and for the sake of us all, stop doing it. Stand up. Live better.