Back to School... almost.

Looks like the anti-Wal-Mart campaign is taking off. Today at noon, there's a group of teachers and families gathering at Portland's Sellwood Middle School - and asking parents of school-bound kids to pledge not to buy school supplies at Wal-Mart this year.

Why? From the press release:

They will call on Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart, to adopt a “Zero Tolerance” policy and promise the American people that Wal-Mart will forever end its exploitation of children in the United States and globally, and will no longer break child labor laws in America.

Local teachers, community leaders, and students will also discuss the growing negative effect Wal-Mart has on all of America’s families and children, as well as our public schools, because the company increasingly shifts its costs on to American taxpayers.

Head on over to WakeUpWalMart.com and join in on the pledge.

Comments

  • Chris Forenza (unverified)
    (Show?)

    This is absurd. Wal-mart and Southwest airlines have accomplished more for low-income people (through slashing prices and increasing the real wages of Americans) in the past 5 years, than the federal government has accomplished in the past 20.

    When Wal-Mart provides dirt cheap prices, they are increasing the real wages of those that shop there. YOU CAN'T REDUCE PRICES AND PAY EVERYBODY SIX FIGURES.

    As far as foreign exploitation goes, this is also absurd. Poor foreigners are choosing to provide this labor because it is the best option they have. They want these jobs. Otherwise, they would be making half as much working in the fields. By buying Wal-Mart products, you are supporting these workers.

    My guess is that organized US labor unions are the ones funding this campaign... only because they selfishly want to avoid labor competition. Meanwhile, these US unions drive up prices for US consumers, and divert jobs away from 3rd world workers. This campaign is not something that any intelligent and compassionate person would support.

  • Chris Forenza (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I just did a little research and found out that this campaign is in fact being funding by: The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

    Of course, they are trying to paint this as some grassroots campaign for social justice. This is despicable!

  • McBain (unverified)
    (Show?)

    That is the most rediculous post I have ever read.

    First, Southwest Airlines is unionized so suck on that for a while and see how it tastes to be wrong.

    Second, if Wal-Mart has done so much to improve real wages of workers, then how come they consistently lead state in employees on state assistance.

    Also, surprise, its not a secret that UFCW is funding this - its on their website. Way to go their Sherlock Holmes! What else can you look up for us. I heard a rumor that Wal-Mart funds the walmartfacts website. Whoo! top notch research.

    Yes, UFCW wants them to change, because they see a drain on working people's income levels. Additionally, the thought that a worker in aanother country benefits because we give them a "better" job is arrogant. Globalization by Wal-Mart, in the case of Mexico has actually depressed the minimum wages for locals, not raised them.

    Finally, what's wrong with expecting more out of a family that is worth 100 billion dollars and a corporation that makes 10 billion per year. If companies can lay out their expectations of us as taxpayers (ie we give them breaks on taxes to be "friendly") then we can ask more of them and shop elsewhere until they come around.

  • Gregor (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Why does Mr. Forenza scoff at the UFCW as though it was NOT a grassroots organization? It seems to me that a union is composed of hundreds of members who all vote to determine the actions of that organization. What is NOT grass roots about that? And what these union people vote on effects their own employment, so don't come back with shareholders voting on any Wal-Mart issues because their votes ONLY effect the employment of OTHERS. There's a HUGE difference, my friend. The caps are there because I don't know how to underline in this forum. I don't mean to yell.

  • (Show?)

    You can buy school supplies just as cheap at Target. I've been picking up items over the past few weeks for my daughter. She's not old enough for school yet, but she is quite the artists. Name brand 24 pack crayons for 10 cents. Markers for a quarter.

    Same thing over at Office Depot.

    I'm low income and I don't have to shop at Wal-Mart.

    I've found that by comparing prices, other places are just as cheap (or cheaper). Cat food is cheaper at Petsmart (or Petco). My daughter's clothes and pull-ups are just as cheap at Target. So are her toys.

    My only wish is that Target would start offering a full service layaway program like Wal-Mart does. I also wish their "women's size" department was larger. That is one area that Wal-Mart beats out both Target and K-Mart. Target has a tiny plus section area, and almost all of K-Mart's clothes are either very dressy or are athletic clothes. I want business casual or just regular 'ole casual.

    This idea that "poor people" need Wal-Mart is for the birds. Compare the prices-- they're not as cheap as they seem. They have products specially made for them that are smaller, have less product inside the package, etc. but is in the same size box/container as the other stores. Their stuff is cheaply made and falls apart.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)
    (Show?)

    The US federal government estimates the dirty, sad, confused, and under-educated WalMart workers (with a 50% annual turnover) use more than $1,500,000,000 in welfare and food stamps every year JUST TO LIVE!

    So, every time you shop at WalMart, be sure to say THANKS SID! since I subsidized those low low prices for the crappiest goods this side of Karachi.

  • (Show?)

    I wouldn't use the words dirty, confused, or under-educated to describe their workers. For starters, dirty is just plain wrong.

    Many of these people are working there while they finish high school or college. I've had two sisters work there while going to school. Living in Texas, there aren't a lot of retail options available since Wal-Mart took over.

  • Chris Forenza (unverified)
    (Show?)

    "Southwest Airlines is unionized so suck on that for a while and see how it tastes to be wrong."

    excuse me? who is this comment even directed to? where did someone say Southwest was not unionized?

    "if Wal-Mart has done so much to improve real wages of workers, then how come they consistently lead state in employees on state assistance."

    why would the Left not support not support low-income workers getting publicly funding health care... which is paid for predominantly by high-income Americans (rather than deducted from the low-income workers paychecks)? I'll tell you why... the UFCW is promoting this illogical argument just b/c it does not want non-unionized workers competing with it union

    "Yes, UFCW wants them to change, because they see a drain on working people's income levels."

    The UFCW only cares about the income levels of the folks paying into their union. A lot of low-income people shop at Wal-Mart and benefit from the low prices (this raises their real wages). The UFCW has no concern for these consumers.

    "the thought that a worker in aanother country benefits because we give them a "better" job is arrogant. Globalization by Wal-Mart, in the case of Mexico has actually depressed the minimum wages for locals, not raised them."

    the workers are choosing to work these jobs. they continually express dismay at the US left for claiming to support their rights when they are really taking away jobs from them. The UFCW can play with the stats all it wants, but you can't change the immutable laws of basic economics, more job opportunities equals higher wages and more options for these workers.

    "Why does Mr. Forenza scoff at the UFCW as though it was NOT a grassroots organization?"

    This campaign is being painted as a battle for the "little-guy" versus big-evil-rich interest. The reality is that there is a large organized party here (the UFCW) that has its own pocketbooks in mind, and nobody elses. This campaign is not about social justice for the masses (as most grassroots campaigns are).

  • (Show?)

    Sid and McBain,

    Just remember that because WalMart is the nation's leading employer, it is going to lead the nation in many things. When evaluating WalMart vs. other large (and small) employers, we have to adjust things to a per-worker basis. So, for example, because Walmart employs more low wage workers than anyone else, they are certain to lead the nation in the number of workers who also receive food stamps.

    It's far more convincing to compare WalMart's practices to other comparable employers (KMart, Target, Home Depot, Costco) and to local retailers, than it is to cite unadjusted statistics.

  • Chris Forenza (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Jenni,

    "You can buy school supplies just as cheap at Target... Same thing over at Office Depot...I'm low income and I don't have to shop at Wal-Mart."

    1.) the workers at Target and Office Depot are not getting paid much more than the workers at Wal-Mart... also, these stores probably bought an equal percentage of their products from overseas

    2.) The only reason these stores have such low prices is b/c Wal-Mart exists. The beautiful thing about Wal-Mart, is that it raises the real wages of consumers in other stores as well. If Wal-Mart didn't exist, Target and Office Depot would immediately raise their prices

  • (Show?)

    Paul--

    Even when compared to companies such as Target and Home Depot, Wal-Mart is still way behind in pay, has more people receiving food stamps, etc.

    Wal-Mart paid for health insurance on 45% of its work force. Full time people may be able to get it after 6 months, part time after two years. Costco covers 96% of its full and part-time work force. Full time people are eligible after 3 months, part time after six.

    Wal-Mart employees must pay 33% of their health care costs. At Costco its much lower-- under 10% (in 2007 it will be 8%). They've refused to go higher because they realize it will mean some employees will have to drop their coverage.

    Here's an example...

    Ms. Caizza, for example, worked about 32 hours a week, making $8 an hour. Full-time employees make about $1,200 a month on those wages, meaning the $133 to $264 they are asked to pay for family coverage may not be within their reach. And even the cheapest plans come with a hefty out-of-pocket price for employees, where they may be on the hook for as much as $13,000 in medical costs for their families.

    $13,000! Those people only make about $14,400/year before taxes.

    I've seen what the per-worker stats were-- I've looked at so many pages of facts in fighting the proposed Wal-Mart here that I've forgotten where I found them. But the numbers were a lot higher than other employers. As a matter of fact, I didn't see any other employer who came anywhere close.

    If I happen across them again in the next few days I'll let you know.

    Wal-Mart artificially inflates its "average worker" pay by adding in the pay of executives, high paid regional managers, CEOs, etc. They'll tell you that they pay an average of $10, but after several years of working there you still won't be anywhere close to $10. Both of my sisters were in management positions and both made less than Oregon's state minimum wage (Texas uses the federal minimum wage).

  • (Show?)

    Actually, my husband makes quite a bit more than people at Wal-Mart. He works at Office Depot and makes several dollars more an hour than a Wal-Mart employee with the same number of years of employment. He also receives excellent benefits-- they're even better than the insurance we had when I was working in a Congressional office. The only reason we're low income is because I have several health problems that keep me from working regularly. As such, there's only one income coming in for the entire household. Before starting our family we were in the middle class.

    Once I start getting in some hours each month again we'll bump back up into middle class once again.

    My youngest sister, though, is much worse off. She's well under the 100% poverty level, and even she can afford to not shop at Wal-Mart. We do our shopping together each month and she's able to get better quality products at Target for right about the same price (or often cheaper). And as soon as our Costco membership is ready (free from her employer), we'll be going there as well.

    I've also had friends who worked at Target who also received good pay and great benefits. They stayed working there for many years because of how well they were treated. They only left because they decided to be stay at home parents or finished college and moved onto a professional job. Target has been recognized numerous times for how well it treats its employees-- recently it was recognized for treating employees who were in the Reserves and sent overseas better than most big companies in the U.S. They not only made up the difference in pay, but continued their benefits as well.

    And the products I'm talking about are name brand-- Crayola, Mead, Fiskars, RoseArt, etc. All of the Crayola stuff I've bought from both stores say made in the USA. I'm sure there is some stuff that comes in from overseas. But I do know the clothes I buy at Target almost always say they're made in the U.S. I can't say that for Wal-Mart. I can't remember the last time I saw a piece of clothing at Wal-Mart that said it was made in the U.S.

  • (Show?)

    Jenni, I'm not questioning those figures -- thanks for posting them. It's just when people post something like "WalMart has more employees that X than anyone else" or "WalMart imports more good from Y than anyone else", the social scientist in me says "WalMart is also bigger than everyone else.

    Your figures are much more convincing.

    (Just one note: I work for an educational institution and pay 50% of my health care costs; we also don't cover benefits for anyone employed under 20 hours. It doesn't look like the health premium is the issue at WalMart; it's the length of time required to get coverage.)

  • (Show?)

    It's also the premium that is the issue. For the cheapest plan, a person would pay out $1,596 a year, just for the premiums. That plan also has high deductibles for doctor visits and such. For a person making $14,000 a year, that's a lot of money.

    If they also cover their family, that could cost $3,168 a year.

    That is awfully expensive for someone who is likely to be below 100% of the federal poverty level. The higher one is more than $100 a month more than we pay for our employee+family plan. We chose to have one of the top plans that Office Depot offers because I am unfortunate enough to have been born with a weak immune system as well as several hereditary conditions from both sides of the family. We could have had a plan that cost even less than $133/month for the entire family.

    Other places may pay a higher percentage, but they also have higher wages. It's hard to pay for health insurance when you're only bringing in $200-250 or so a week. I mean, those amounts run from more than 10% of their before-tax wages to almosy 23% for the top package. And that's not including deductibles, co-pays, etc.

  • Jon (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Wal-Mart artificially inflates its "average worker" pay by adding in the pay of executives, high paid regional managers, CEOs, etc. They'll tell you that they pay an average of $10, but after several years of working there you still won't be anywhere close to $10. Both of my sisters were in management positions and both made less than Oregon's state minimum wage (Texas uses the federal minimum wage).

    Really? I personally know people who work at Walmart who make $12/hr as a checker, right here in Oregon. And they have only been there a couple years. They started at over $10/hr.

    As for Walmart employees having to pay 33% of their insurance...welcome to the real world. I work for a Fortune 500 company, and I have to pay nearly 50%. Thats because of the insurance companies, not the employer. Employers can't cover everything and stay profitable. And insurance companies can't keep covering the costs of illegals using the emergency room for the sniffles without passing the costs onto the rest of us.

  • (Show?)

    Jenni,

    Again, just for comparison, my employer's plan costs $350 or $450/month for a family plan. Those are our two choices--one is Kaiser and the other is a preferred provider plan. I don't believe we have anyone earning $14,000/year, but I suspect some of our maintainance workers don't make much more than that. And my employer's overall benefit plan is actually quite generous.

    My spouse worked for a while in the non-profit sector in Portland. Entry level salaries are routinely well under 20k with no pension or retirement kick and minimal health benefits.

    The core problem here is not Walmart, it is the hollowing out of good, working class jobs that don't require a lot of training or education. Look at what custodial workers or groundskeepers used to earn, and what they earn today.

  • (Show?)

    Jon--

    Are you making $14,000 a year and having to pay out almost $3200 a year just in insurance premiums? It's not just the percentage that is the problem, although it is way out of line for comparitable retail shops. It's more than a $100 more a month than the insurance my husband receives. When my sister got onto the insurance, the co-pays and deductibles were very high, it didn't pay for a lot of routine things, etc. She ended up paying a lot of stuff out of pocket that I never have in all the years of my husband working retail.

    It's the amount a person has to pay out per month for their insurance premiums. For a person with a family, it would cost a week and a half pay just for their insurance.

    And I must say I've never met a Wal-Mart employee who made that much an hour. I've known dozens of employees there and not a single one made $10/hour. There's a large class action suit involving women suing Wal-Mart that shows the exact same thing. The actual Wal-Mart average for a cashier is something like $3 less an hour than the industry average for similar stores. I'd pull the exact numbers, but I have to run to take my sister to a doctors appointment.

  • Jon (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Jenni-

    Actually, I make $50k/year, and I pay out nearly $7,000 per year for premiums. And my insurance is only "basic care" coverage. Its for basic dental services, doctor visits and prescriptions. If one of my kids breaks an arm, or someone needs an operation, its out of my pocket. So they are not getting any sympathy from me.

open discussion

connect with blueoregon