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Wal-Mart mistreats employees, environment, local economy

My View

By Robert Prowse
On March 16, 2006

Type Wal-Mart into Google's search engine. The first two returns will be Wal-Mart corporate sponsored web sties which proudly boast Wal-Mart's "wide selection of items at Every Day Low Prices". The next four are all dedicated to informing the public as to Wal-Mart's unethical business practices and combating the effect Wal-Mart has on the economies that it enters.
I've been complaining about Wal-Mart and its evil business practices for years (never trust a disembodied floating smiley face) but until taking on this article, I was not aware of just how terrible Wal-Mart really is.
Wal-Mart's list of offenses against well, humanity really, is a long one and where to start is a very tough question. Let's start with Wal-Mart's policy of discrimination. Wal-Mart has been accused of discrimination against woman, minorities and people with disabilities.
Wal-Mart is currently the subject of the largest class action lawsuit in history. 1.6 million current and former female employees are suing Wal-Mart for gender discrimination.
Women comprise 92% of Wal-Mart's cashiers while they are only 14% of store managers. On average in 2001, women within the hourly workforce were paid $1,100 less than men at Wal-Mart and $14,500 less among management employees.
The New York Time's annual Wal-Mart report states that nationally 15% of truck drivers are African-American while only 2-3% of Wal-Mart's 7,800 driver fleet are comprised of African-Americans.
In 2001, Wal-Mart agreed to pay $6.8 million to settle 13 lawsuits in 11 states that were filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging widespread discrimination against people with disabilities.
When mistreating its employees, Wal-Mart does not stop with discrimination.
In an interview with Fox News in Jan. of 2005, Lee Scott, Wal-Mart's CEO said, "The truth is our wages are really competitive and they're good." Lee Scott's wage for 2004 was $17.5 million or $8,434 an hour.
So, perhaps he was referring to his own wage.
According to The New York Book Review, the average Wal-Mart sales associate made $14,000 in 2004 which is $1000 less than the poverty line for a family of three. Yet according to The New York Times, Costco pays their employees 65% more than Wal-Mart.
In addition to not paying its employees livable wages, Wal-Mart, the world's single largest and most profitable corporation also refuses to provide adequate health care for those same employees.
Just 47 percent of Wal-Mart employees are covered by the Wal-Mart health plan; while nationally 68 percent of workers in large firms receive their health benefits from their employer.
The result of employees being denied health care from Wal-Mart is a socially dangerous one. Many employees are being forced to turn to federal aid and everyone is paying the cost. Wal-Mart employees top the lists for Medicaid and CHIP in at least 16 states.
Although bad enough, the way that Wal-Mart treats its employees is not the worst of its misdeeds.
Wal-Mart has a long history of environmental violations. In August 2005, Wal-Mart agreed to pay $1.5 million in penalties in Connecticut for storm water violations, in 2004, Wal-Mart was fined $3.1 million for Clean Water Act violations and paid $400,000 to settle violations of the Clean Air Act.
In addition to the damage Wal-Mart is doing to the global environment, it also damages local economies by moving into them.
A study conducted by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance showed that local businesses spend 53% of their revenues within the local and state economies from which they come while large corporations such as Wal-Mart spend only 14% within the local economy.
In yet another study, the National Trust for Historic Preservation found that 84% of all sales at the new Wal-Mart stores in Iowa came at the expense of existing businesses within the same county.
While Wal-Mart must shoulder the responsibility of the repercussions of its business practices, the implications are greater. Wal-Mart, however powerful and out of hand it may be getting, is still a business and still dependant on its customers. Wal-Mart is the largest corporation in the world because it has the largest customer base.
What I'm saying is that you contribute to Wal-Mart's ability to take advantage of you. Wal-Mart is able to swoop into a community and force the other retailers out of business is because the consumers in that community choose to shop at Wal-Mart.
People all across this nation are choosing to sacrifice quality of life for discount products.
Wal-Mart has proven time and again that it has no intention of altering the way that it does business. The many fines that Wal-Mart has been forced to pay over the years amount to petty change compared to the profits made possible by their unethical business practices.
The only way to reform this corporate giant is by laying siege to its supply line; defeat Wal-Mart by shopping somewhere else.


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