Government-supported retail

On Black Friday, people turned out to protest the working conditions at Walmarts across the country.

For people who don’t want any government interference, the family that owns Walmart certainly relies pretty heavily on the feds.

About 80 percent of the people who work for Walmart are eligible for food stamps. All told, these hard-working people get $1 billion in government assistance, and the Walton family walks away with billions in profits.

Walmart employees make an average of $8.81 an hour, according to IBISWorld, an independent market research group. In most parts of the country, living wage is almost double that. A living wage is what it takes to pay rent on modest living space, buy groceries, own a car and pay utilities. There is no cable TV calculated into living wage, no meals out, no evenings at the movies, no smart phone with unlimited data.

This wage adds up to annual pay of $15,576, based upon Walmart’s full-time status of 34 hours per week. That wage, if you’re a single parent with three kids, is well below the federal poverty level of about $22,000 for a family of four.

Walmart employs 1 percent of the US population, but its payroll doesn’t come close to 1 percent of total wages paid in the country.

According to a paper by the Center for Labor Research and Education at University of California Berkeley, if Walmart started paying a $12 per hour, its workers who now make less than $9 per hour could each earn $3,250 to $6,500 more per year before taxes. If Walmart were to pass this cost directly to shoppers, the average consumer would need to pay only 46 cents more per shopping trip, or $12.50 per year.

Last week, Walmart announced that it would stop offering health insurance to new employees who work less than 30 hours per week. And you can bet most new employees will work less than 30 hours per week.

The company cited the costs of the Affordable Care Act, even though the law isn’t fully implemented for another year.

It’s just another excuse to screw the workers and keep them in poverty.

Walmart can afford to pay a better wage and more benefits. Compare it to Costco, where the average employee earns about $17 an hour and has health coverage. No, the CEO won’t be able to make more than 1,200 times what the average employee makes. Big deal.

A living wage would allow people the dignity of making their own decisions about their spending instead of having to rely on the government agencies that subsidize their food, rent and health care costs.

Walmart typically goes into markets and undercuts the prices of local merchants, driving many of them out of business. It keeps wages low, and with few other options for retail jobs in many communities, its employees have to stay on.

Sure the prices at Walmart are low — they’re subsidized by all of us taxpayers.

 

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