Wal-Mart: Save Money. Live Worse.


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Everyone has heard of Wal-Mart. Some may have heard of its impressive supply chain management, while to most others, Wal-Mart is known for its everyday low prices and huge assortment of inventory, providing its customers with practically everything they could possibly need. For Bucknell students, Wal-Mart is a necessity. It’s the perfect one-stop shop that suits the schedule of the rushed college student. I’ve never been to the Wal-Mart in town without seeing at least a few Bucknellians stocking up on food or party supplies. Most customers leave the superstore satisfied with their shopping experience as long as they did not become too overwhelmed by the vastness of the store. The main problem to consider here is how many Wal-Mart employees leave the store after their shift satisfied with their job?

I’ve recently discovered some pretty disturbing news about Wal-Mart and the way that employees are treated there in general. The company is essentially blocking out the ways that employees are able to speak out. Unions are strongly discouraged by the company and oftentimes, the typical Wal-Mart employee does not have the extra money available to pay for union dues. Even the new employee orientation has a section dedicated to preaching the evils of unions. Wal-Mart labor protests have arisen in the last year and were aimed at pressing Wal-Mart to increase wages, stop cutting workers’ hours, and to treat employees with respect. And these protesters did not all come from the same Wal-Mart store or even the same state, they came from over 28 stores and 12 different states.

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Wal-Mart Labor Protests

Wal-Mart’s corporate culture is built around the idea of cutting costs to provide its customers with the low prices that they expect. The employees are also becoming victim to this low-cost strategy. Minimum wage is hardly enough to support one person, let alone a family. It seems as if the corporate structure of Wal-Mart is doing everything it can to keep its employees below the poverty line. Therefore it can remain in its position of power to keep its employees voiceless. This practice hardly seems to be the least bit ethical. The employees of Wal-Mart deserve to be able to voice their problems and speak out against the wrongs that may be occurring in the workplace. Wal-Mart’s hindering of this basic right is flat-out unethical.

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8 thoughts on “Wal-Mart: Save Money. Live Worse.

  1. I enjoyed the sign in the protest that reads ” Wal-Mart always low wages.” It is absurd that a company with so much money cannot pay employees fair wages. I understand that its strategy revolves around low prices however Wal-Mart does not need to cut costs from wages in order to keep prices low. I feel Wal-Mart has huge room for improvement and should work to be a more ethical company.

  2. Love this post! I really dislike Wal-Mart’s practices when it comes to their treatment of their employees. After reading the case last week, and presenting on it for Teach for 20, I feel that I have a great understanding of the ethical practices with this company. It saddens me that some Wal-Mart managers have admitted that part of their job training consisted of learning how to change overtime hours of their employees to less than what they were supposed to be. It’s just sick.

  3. Such a powerful post! I think this is a great topic to expand upon for Paper 2. I think Walmart needs to realize that it wouldn’t be nearly as successful without its employees. So treat them right! I would love to see a change in leadership or even see a current executive step up and voice the need for change.

  4. I, too, was completely surprised by this news. I was unaware that Wal-Mart is treating their employees so terribly. As one of the biggest retail companies in the world, you would think that they would be able to pay their workers a little better and with more respect.

  5. I think focusing more specifically on WM hourly employees is a good focus. It is such a huge company, and so studied, that it would be easy to become over-whelmed.

    Econ 103 classes sometimes (always?) study it, so if you friend who took one of those sections, that syllabus may be useful. Also, I have some cases I can share with you. The Dukes v Wal-Mart case we discussed also produced various materials that may be useful.

    Don’t hesitate to also see what WM says about itself.

    One issue I have seen discussed is how the low wages essentially lead to tax payers subsidizing workers with food stamps, health care (esp for kids through CHIP programs), and housing subsidies. In other words, you play low prices at Wal MArt and make up the difference in transfers through government programs.

  6. Also, here is a policy/structural issue that I find not well known. In the mad rush for jobs (understandable) many states grant tax breaks to big box retail. The upshot is that tax payers end up subsidizing the economic dislocation caused by the entrance of a Wal Mart or other big boxer… And yet we are to believe Wal-MArt is simply successful due to “free markets.”

    Here is David Cay Johnson discussing this…

    DCJ: Well, in many of the big new box stores, when you walk to the cash register to pay for your purchase, you’re required to pay sales tax. But the government never gets that money. Instead, those sales taxes are used to pay for the cost of the store. Now, on one level this means that your community’s police department, fire department and schools and libraries aren’t getting those sales taxes. But imagine for a moment that you own the retail store down the street that’s been there for years. You’re competing against this enormous subsidy that’s going to drive you out of business. In a small town in the Poconos in Pennsylvania, a fellow named Jim Weaknecht ran a little fin, feather, and fur outfitting club. He sold hunting bows and fishing tackle and things like that. One day a big company named Cabela’s came to town. This little town – 4,100 people – agreed to give Cabela’s $36 million to build the world’s largest outdoor goods store. That’s over $8,000 for every man, woman and child in Hamburg, more than the entire city budget for everything — police patrols, road repair – for more than a decade. Jim Weaknecht charged lower prices. He was run out of business. While he thinks he might have been run out of business anyway, he also says that this isn’t fair. This is not business. This is the government helping the politically connected. I think most people walking into a WalMart, Cabela’s, … a lot of other stores have absolutely no idea that the sales tax money is going to the owners of the store.

    TG: What’s the rationale behind that?

    DCJ: The theory is that this is bringing new business. In the case of the Cabela’s store, they argued that people would come from all around. They would drive a day or two from New York and Washington and maybe even North Carolina just so they could come to this Cabela’s store. As Jim Weaknecht points out, why, when you can just order out of the catalog? The argument is called “tax increment financing.” From the point of view of the people who get it, here’s the pitch they make. They say, “Dear City Councilmen: We want to make this big investment in your town. We’re going to build this store. If we don’t build the store in your town, why, we’ll just go down the highway to the next little town and they’ll get all the benefits of having our store in your town! And the price for this is, you’re going to let us keep the taxes from sales and you’re going to not charge us property taxes in return for our investing in your community.” They make it sound like a free lunch.

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