When the US looks at unemployment rates it’s easy to focus on those who have no job at all and forget the portion of the country that is underemployed. For many working in service industries such as restaurants and retail stores, full time employment can be difficult to find. For many, it is even more difficult finding a single full time position that can pay the bills. These people live in a world where equal pay for equal work is of far less concern than how they can be working the hours they do in a thankless job only to still be unable to buy the discount products their company sells. Hello Wal-Mart. I see you.
Wal-Mart has never had a solid reputation for watching their employees’ backs. One thing that Wal-Mart has made abundantly clear is that they do not value their employees enough to pay them a living wage. For those unfamiliar with the Large Retailer Accountability Act (currently only impacts Washington, DC), if signed it ‘will require retailers making more than $1 billion per year and occupy at least 75,000 square feet to pay their workers at least $12.50 an hour, minus benefits.’ Currently the standard minimum wage for these employees in our lovely nation’s capital is $8.25 per hour. Of course, Wal-Mart considers these wages fair and competitive. Back in December, Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke claimed the average Wal-Mart associate earns $12.57 per hour. Unfortunately, his averages must have included the wages for Management positions and higher. An independent market research firm calculated the average hourly wage to be approximately $8.81 per hour.
In an editorial in the Washington Post Wal-Mart regional manager Alex Baron does his best to explain his company’s stance on the new local measure by stating, ‘…LRAA would result in fewer jobs, higher prices and fewer total retail options. Most shopping dollars would stay in the suburbs, unemployment would remain in the double digits in some neighborhoods, and underserved communities would continue to have disproportionate access to affordable groceries.’ Wal-Mart plans to pull plans for two new stores if the measure passes. In addition, Baron threatens that passage of the measure could ‘jeopardize’ stores already in the building phase.
Perhaps it is only my read on the editorial, but it seems to me that Wal-Mart is screwing people at the poverty level by paying them cheap wages but promising them cheap groceries that they still cannot afford to buy. Furthermore, it appears that this is just more bullying tactics from the world’s largest retailer. If they are not allowed to keep their employees at the poverty level or below they will take their business elsewhere.
If there were ever a reason to put more thought into shopping locally, cutting coupons, and avoiding Wal-Mart like the plague, this is it. For those who continue to shop there because you cannot afford to shop at the pricey local grocer, remember that the employees they hire are the only ones they can hire at those wages. When the employees don’t seem to know what they are doing, remember the turnover rate (not the cherry or apple ones) is atrocious because anyone who can make more money doing the same job at your pricey local grocer is going to do so. When you think to yourself, “I could check my own damn groceries faster!” remember that you’re welcome to do so, you just won’t be able to pay your bills doing it.
Hey, if Wal-Mart wants to take their balls and go home they are free to do so. It’s their right, but they’re still jerks.