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Walmart: Corporate Tyranny with a Smiley Face

By Hiram Crespo - Staff Writer
On December 6, 2012

 

This Black Friday, a boycott was called against that All-American sweatshop Walmart, fueled by a decades-long litany of complaints by workers unable to earn a living wage, even while working full-time.

Like many other giant corporations that seek to increase profits by relying on outsourcing production to China, Walmart also employs a large amount of part-time workers and as few full-time workers as it can get away with. Concern over Walmart's detrimental effects on American labor and our economy has been building up for years. In 2005, the documentary Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price helped to educate the public about how the opening of these stores in urban areas has the effect of lowering overall wages and worker conditions, producing an annual loss of at least $4.7 billion dollars in earnings for retail workers. In spite of pervasive anti-union propaganda from conservatives, many on the right side of the political spectrum are beginning to manifest solidarity with Walmart workers. In an opinion piece titled Why Libertarians Should Support This Movement, Lilly O'Donnell argued "A lot of the same people who argue against striking and in favor of letting big business do whatever it takes to protect profit margins are the same people who are against monetary government assistance, and want people to fend for themselves. No strikes, no welfare. But, guess what, if Wal-Mart and other large employers of unskilled workers don't raise their wages and benefits, taxpayer money will continue to make up the difference."

In 2004, a year in which Wal-Mart reported $9.1 billion in profits; the retailer's California employees collected $86 million in public assistance, Mother Jones reported. That's just in one state.

Although workers are supposed to be legally allowed to unionize, management is trained to participate in the company's culture of union busting and illegal retaliation against workers who sympathize with the unions. The company has faced litigation in several states for surveillance, threats and intimidation of its workers, who are so demoralized that in some parts of the country, worker turnover is nearly at 100 percent.

The company even had to pay out $50 million in Colorado to settle a legal dispute after forcing workers to labor off-the-clock: in effect, Walmart literally engaged in slavery. Steven Greenhouse, writing in 2002 for the New York Times, shared a similar case in Texas, where the company is estimated to owe $150 million in unpaid wages to its workers. Walmart doesn't even create good American jobs indirectly, as it prefers cheaper, foreign production over American-made production.

Walmart is hell for workers. It's bad for labor. It displaces American-made products. It's bad for the surrounding businesses wherever it sets shop. It perpetuates poverty and all that comes with it, harasses its workers, and engages in slavery. This holiday season, PLEASE make sure to buy American made products from your local shops.


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