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Walmart Could, And Should Be Paying $15 An Hour And Would Still Make $10 Billion In Profit

AFT VIDEO Screengrab

Working families are struggling and Walmart workers symbolize the struggles that millions of Americans are facing.  They work as many hours as their employer will give them and they are still living in poverty.

“If you are a man or woman working full-time in this country, it is a crime for you to still be poor,” said Rabbi Michael Feinberg.  “They (Walmart) have a 1-800 number where the workers call up in order for the corporation to help them connect to social benefits in their state, meaning Medicaid and welfare.”

Walmart workers alone cost the taxpayers over $6 billion dollars a year in social programs. The Americans for Tax Fairness “found that a single Walmart Supercenter cost taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.75 million per year or between $3,015 and $5,815 on average for each of 300 workers.

Walmart workers have had enough! They are walking out protesting Walmart’s poverty wages and failure to provide full-time employment.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said, “That’s why clergy, labor, school teachers, and workers from all over are here (and) all throughout the country to say to Walmart ‘you got to be fair, you got to be just’.”

Walmart is the largest private employer in the country and collected over $17 billion — yes that is with a B–  in profits in 2013. Let’s not forget that the CEO of Walmart collects an annual salary of $23 million.  To break it down further, that is “1,034 times more than the company’s average worker.”  Is this one man worth more than 1,000 workers? Can he stock the shelves of a 1,000 stores?

A 2013 UC Berkeley study showed that increasing wages to $12.00 an hour would add only $3.21 billion to Walmart’s annual labor costs.  That is not even half of what Walmart spent last year buying back their own stock to inflate their stock price.

If Walmart refused to take any cuts to their profit margin they could pass all of their labor costs on the consumer. This is what the Republicans say will cause the price of mile to jump to $10 a gallon!

The average Walmart customer would see an increase of $12.49 per year – about 46 cents per visit – if Walmart executives passed the total cost along, rather than cutting their profits.

Walmart can easily afford to pay workers $15 an hour, hell they could pay them $30 and hour if they really wanted to and still be a hugely profitable corporation.  In fact Fortune Magazine concluded that Walmart could give every worker a 50% increase in pay and still please their Wall Street investors.

The greed of Walmart is unmatched. Collecting millions of dollars a day in profits while asking  associates to donate to other associates so they can have food for Thanksgiving. (Of course they all had to work Thanksgiving too.)  That takes some really big cojones and a complete lack of respect for the people who are making your company a success.

 

Thanks to the American Federation of Teachers for this great video of solidarity for Walmart workers and the members of Making Change at Walmart (OUR Walmart – UFCW). 

Watch the video on YouTube

My Question To The Walton Family: How Much Is Enough?

Walmart Black Friday

 

How much money is enough? Do you stop being a greedy capitalist when you no longer care what anything costs? Do you stop when you become one of the named people on the “Richest People In America” lists?  Do you stop when your company make $8.5 million dollars a day in dividends alone? Some people would say, “Never! I will never stop until I own everything!”

This is exactly the case of the Walton Family.  Sam Walton built an empire in Walmart by keeping costs down and providing people with everything they needed in one store.  Somewhere along the way, Sam’s Walmart became WALMART (dun-dun-dah), the monstrous corporation with over one million employees that drives the entire retail industry.  They force other retail shops to compete with their unscrupulous tactics like forcing employees to work on Thanksgiving, paying workers the absolute minimum, and making the majority of employees part-time to avoid having to offer any type of health benefits (forget about retirement – good luck funding that 401k on $7.25 an hour).

The Walton’s still own Walmart and they could be doing so much more for their workers, their communities and their country.  They could pay every worker $15 an hour without having raise any prices or lose out on any profits.  Yet they refuse to pay workers a living wage. In fact the Walmart corporation is one of the biggest opponents to raising the minimum wage.

Lets not forget that we as American taxpayers are subsidizing these low wages with our tax dollars.  Research from the Economic Policy Institute shows that the government spends more than $13 billion dollars a year subsidizing the retail industry’s low wages.  With a poverty rate of low-wage workers pushing over 10%, it is no wonder Walmart does food drives for their own employees.

So again I will ask how much money is enough? 

_________________________

The UFCW and Robert Reich teamed up to make this great video (http://youtu.be/_-SMetMkcVI) explaining how Walmart could give millions of Americans a raise right now, if they chose to.

Please watch this video and support a Black Friday Protest near you, visit BlackFridayProtest.org

Think US Manufacturing Is In Trouble Now? Wait Till WALMART Jumps In

photo 0f 2007 Northcross Mall Wal-Mart protest by Kristin Hillery, via flikr
photo of 2007 Northcross Mall Wal-Mart protest by Kristin Hillery, via flikr

Photo by Kristin Hillery, via flikr

Hey, Richard Trumka! You didn’t need to be so darn diplomatic yesterday. My take: Wal-Mart getting into in US manufacturing is pretty much the LAST thing America’s economy needs right now.

Unless, of course, somebody’s had an attack of conscience and they’ve completely changed their business model.

Really quick, let’s look at Walmart’s business model:

The retailer has a clear policy for suppliers: On basic products that don’t change, the price Wal-Mart will pay, and will charge shoppers, must drop year after year.

Yep, it’s that old ratcheting-down thing. Works the same way as chained-CPI for Social Security benefits. Or, what’s been happening to the middle-class for the last 40 years. Death by a thousand cuts (also known as “creeping normality”). They take a little bit this year, and a little bit more next year, and a little bit more the year after that.  Wal-Mart’s business model:

Wal-Mart also clearly does not hesitate to use its power, magnifying the Darwinian forces already at work in modern global capitalism. …The Wal-Mart squeeze means vendors have to be as relentless and as microscopic as Wal-Mart is at managing their own costs. …Wal-Mart has also lulled shoppers into ignoring the difference between the price of something and the cost. Its unending focus on price underscores something that Americans are only starting to realize: Ever-cheaper prices have consequences.

Why would anybody in their right mind want to apply this business model to US manufacturing? (Other than, of course, the Walton family. But maybe having a bigger fortune than the bottom 42% of Americans, combined, isn’t enough for some people…?)

Isn’t it time to start ratcheting things UP again?

Mr. Trumka, please… save the diplomacy for elsewhere. We gotta stop this Race to the Bottom.

—–

made in prison labelAnd, oh yeah… something else about “Made in the USA.”

If you haven’t noticed, we’ve got a lot of prisons here in the US. And inmates work for really cheap wages.

That USA-grown organic produce sold at Walmart? Yep.

Stuff that gets returned to Walmart? Yep.

And that may just be the tip of the iceberg. Thanks to ALEC pushing “prison industries enhancement” laws for the past 20 years, there’s now lots and lots of stuff “Made in the USA” behind prison bars. And no way to tell how much of it ends up for sale on retail store shelves. Apparently, in some states, it’s legal to sell prison-made stuff in local stores… as long as it’s not transported across state lines.

Myself, I’m thinking it’s about time for another nationwide product-labeling campaign. So consumers will know exactly where in the USA these products are made.

H/T to the Teamsters for the really great graphic above… and to Dennis Trainor, Jr. and Acronym TV for the video below.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Walmart’s U.S. Manufacturing Summit

Image via WikiCommon

In response to Walmart’s U.S. Manufacturing Summit, which convenes today in Denver, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued the following statement:

“It’s about time Walmart figured out that America’s workers are the most qualified and the best skilled at getting the job done. For decades, Walmart has led the charge on outsourcing and a global race to the bottom.

But workers will not benefit from a Walmart-ification of our manufacturing sector. Jobs in the Walmart model won’t restore America’s middle class or build shared prosperity given the company’s obsession with low labor costs and undermining American labor standards. And the company’s ‘commitment’ to American manufacturing is meaningless unless it actually increases the proportion of its products that are American-made.

This initiative seems like an attempt to change the conversation from the need for Walmart to improve jobs for its 1.4 million retail workers in the United States. If Walmart is truly committed to rebuilding the American middle class, it can start with its own workers, most of whom make less than $25,000/year and struggle to make ends meet.

Walmart should use its two-day summit to prove the company is committed to real and substantive change and an end to corporate whitewashing.”

Non-Union Working Women Face Greater Challenges on the Job

anti-union

In advance of the White House Summit on Working Families, the labor movement and worker groups are spending this week highlighting the stories of real working families and the challenges they face.

Today we’ll take a look at working women and moms in the workplace with the story from Bene’t Holmes.  Bene’t is a 25-year-old single mother who works at Walmart in Chicago and struggles to survive on low wages.  In February she suffered a miscarriage while at work, after a manager denied her request for job duties that were less physically demanding.  Following her miscarriage, she asked for a leave of absence to recover and was denied that request as well.  Read how Bene’t realized she needed a voice on the job and took action with the OUR Walmart campaign.

A quote from Bene’t’s story

“….Besides feeling betrayed by Walmart I questioned how a company that champions family could be so cold and heartless when one of its own employees is dealing with a tragedy.

I had to act—no woman should ever be put in that position again. I used my story to speak out and empower other women….”

On the policy front, the Center for Economic Policy and Research is out with a new study on women, working families and unions.  The study concludes that “firms with a union presence were 22 percent more likely to allow workers to take parental leave for a new child, 16 percent more likely to allow workers to take medical leave for their own illness, 12 percent more likely to allow workers to take medical leave for pregnancy, and 19 percent more likely to allow workers to take medical leave to care for a family member.”  View the full study here

Follow the conversation on social media at #WFSpeakUp and #WorkingFamilies.  Or visit the AFL-CIO blog for more stories from working families. http://www.aflcio.org/Blog

AFL-CIO Wraps up Week of Activity in Support of Walmart Workers

Image via WikiCommon
Image via WikiCommon

Image via WikiCommon

Working Families Take to the Streets Leading up to Walmart’s Shareholders Meeting

Washington, DC – This week working families and Walmart moms across the country hit the streets to protest Walmart’s egregious workplace policies.  And this afternoon Walmart moms are rallying outside of the Walmart Supercenter in Washington, D.C., in protest of the company’s illegal firings and disciplinary action against co-workers who have struck to end illegal retaliation and spoken out for better jobs for their families.

On Monday AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called on people to stand with Walmart moms going on strike: http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Corporate-Greed/Why-We-Should-All-Support-the-Moms-on-Strike-Against-Walmart

On Wednesday the AFL-CIO named Rob Walton, Chairman of Walmart the “Low Wage Villain of the Week”: http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Corporate-Greed/Low-Wage-Villain-of-the-Week-Rob-Walton

On Thursday AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Liz Shuler penned an open letter to working women in support of Walmart moms: http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Corporate-Greed/Walmart-Moms-Their-Fight-Is-Our-Fight

Today AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre will join Walmart moms in Washington, DC to call on new Walmart CEO, Doug McMillon, to publicly commit to take the company in a new direction.

The strike follows a series of events in Phoenix, Ariz., where Walmart moms tried todiscuss their concerns of low pay directly with board chairman Rob Walton in his neighborhood.

Worker shareholders who are OUR Walmart members —including many striking moms—are set to attend the company’s annual shareholder meeting on Friday, June 6 in Bentonville, Ark., to take their concerns directly to shareholders.

The annual shareholders meeting will begin as Walmart workers—part of the three-year old national organization OUR Walmart—make significant strides in changing policies of the country’s largest employer. Recently, Walmart upgraded its pregnancy policy after OUR Walmart memberswho are also shareholders submitted a resolution to the company about its discriminatory pregnancy policy. And,responding to OUR Walmart members’ growing calls on the retailer to improve access to hours, Walmart rolled out a new system nationwidethat allows workers to sign up for open shifts in their stores online.

One ‘Modest Proposal’? Or the other?

clover

cloverI couldn’t help it.  This year, on Saint Patrick’s Day, I didn’t feel much like partying.

I couldn’t stop thinking about Ireland’s Great Famine — and hearing echoes across the centuries, right here in the United States, as the working class endures Year Seven of their Great Recession (while the elite are taking home more money than ever).

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one thinking along those lines.  If you can take three minutes to read “Paul Ryan’s Irish Amnesia” you’ll see what I mean.

[In the 1840s] A great debate raged in London: Would it be wrong to feed the starving Irish with free food, thereby setting up a “culture of dependency”? Certainly England’s man in charge of easing the famine, Sir Charles Trevelyan, thought so. “Dependence on charity,” he declared, “is not to be made an agreeable mode of life.”

That Great Famine, of course, wasn’t the first time Ireland’s poor had been ravaged by economic conditions.

In 1729, Irish author Jonathan Swift (writing anonymously) tried to call attention to the plight of the poor — and the heartless attitudes of the rich — through his classic satire, “A Modest Proposal.”

The plight of the poor… versus the attitudes of the rich.  Some things don’t ever seem to change.

I found an interesting chart on the website of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. It compares the amount of federal taxes paid by corporations (red line) with the amount of profit that corporations pay out to their stockholders as dividends (blue line).

And it looks like during all those decades when the American Middle Class was thriving, corporations were paying about the same amount in taxes to the federal government as they were paying in dividends to their stockholders.

  • Corporate taxes help the federal government fund the various infrastructures that businesses need to thrive, including transportation (highways, bridges, ports); the court system (contract enforcement); public safety and law enforcement.  These days, large employers like WalMart, McDonalds and the country’s biggest banks also depend on safety-net programs such as Medicaid and Food Stamps to supplement their workers’ low wages.
  • Dividends represent the payout of corporate revenues which were not spent on wages/benefits or invested in expansion (new factories, new equipment, new product development, new employees).  To the stockholders, they are “passive earnings” — similar to the bank interest most of us used to earn on money in our savings accounts — money that you get simply because you already have money.

All the way up until Ronald Reagan signed “The Tax Reform Act of 1986″, it looks like those two amounts were pretty much equal: what corporations paid as taxes, and what they paid out as dividends.

So I’d like to make a “Modest Proposal” of my own: let’s go back to that tradition.

From the chart, it looks like that single change would add about $380 billion a year in federal revenues: enough to fund the Food Stamp program four times over (and still have billions to spend other things).

Restore corporate tax levels.

MY “Modest Proposal” isn’t intended as a satire. And it would be a lot easier to swallow than Jonathan Swift’s.

Just sayin’.

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka On the Gap Increasing Wages and the Question of Walmart

Richard Trumka (The Nation / AP-Photo)

Gap’s announcement that it will raise its own minimum wage to $9.00 an hour in 2014 and $10 an hour next year represents a major victory by working people in their growing campaign to raise wages and working standards. While Gap has more work to do both in the United States and with its supply chain in countries like Bangladesh, this wage increase is a turning point.

The Gap’s decision exposes the greatest economic fraud of our time: that large employers cannot pay their employees fair wages.  With one decision, the Gap has stripped the oligarch of his clothes and changed the economic debate in America.

So now Wal-Mart is exposed.  The landscape is clear.  What will the largest employer in our country, owned by the world’s richest family, do?

Walmart workers have been protesting and striking, demanding justice.  What is Walmart’s answer?

As a first small step, Walmart workers, like all workers need a federal minimum wage of at least $10.10 an hour.  But Walmart can do better than that.  It must agree to its workers demands to stop using low wages and abusive scheduling practices to condemn its workers to poverty – and agree to the $25,000 a year minimum.

Then we can start to get to work.  Everything that should constitute a normal working life – from a national living wage to paid sick days, among  many other improvements – should move forward swiftly and with genuine purpose under the  combined leadership of Wal-Mart, all of corporate America, and the labor movement.

The AFL-CIO, and all American workers, are ready to meet the challenge of falling wages and rising inequality that has been growing painfully for decades.  The Gap has issued an invitation to Wal-Mart, and offered America a new path forward.  Will Wal-Mart respond and join the tens of millions who deserve a better future?

The ‘War On Thanksgiving’ Has Already Begun; Retailers Have Stolen Thanksgiving

War On Thanksgiving

The holiday season is about to begin. On Wednesday at sundown Hanukkah begins (Hanukkah Sameach). Then on Thursday the Black Friday sales begin!  Did I miss something? Oh that’s right, Thursday is also Thanksgiving Day.  Or at least it used to be. The events of Black Friday are quickly taking over Thanksgiving and soon there will be nothing left.

Sarah Palin says there is a ‘War on Christmas’.  She is wrong; the ‘war’ is on Thanksgiving and the American worker.  The difference is that Black Friday is ‘free-market capitalism’ in action, so that makes it suitable in their book.

I would expect this trend to continue and next year Walmart, and other terrible retailers, will be opening at 12pm (noon) on Thanksgiving.  If we do not do something to stop these greedy retailers from opening earlier and earlier, it will not be long before they do not even bother to close for Thanksgiving.

This year millions of workers are being forced to work on Thanksgiving to feed the greed of their corporate owners.  This action absolutely disgusts me.  There are some jobs like police, fire, doctors, nurses, and emergency staff that works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, holidays included.  These jobs are necessary for public safety and are usually paid a hefty bonus for working the holiday.  These are not the people I am complaining about.

I am disgusted at the retail stores who continue to steal the Thanksgiving holiday from their employees.  Last year stores opened at Midnight on Friday morning, or 10pm on Thursday night.  Now stores are opening at 6 or 7 pm.  Utterly disgusting!

Forced to work on Thanksgiving, for what, $7.25 an hour.  Walmart makes $25 billion dollars in profits every year and yet workers are living in poverty due to low wages.

Recently MIT created the living wage calculator.  The living wage calculator is chart that shows how much you would have to earn to have a ‘living wage’.

Screen shot 2013-11-24 at 9.35.03 AM

Living Wage Calculator Southern NH

As you can see in New Hampshire a single person would need to make a little more than $10 an hour to meet the living wage standard.  The numbers go up dramatically when you start to include children in the mix.  A single parent with two children would need to make almost $30.00 to meet the living wage standards.

This year thousands of Walmart workers will be walking out on Black Friday.  They are trying to make national attention to the low-wages that Walmart is paying.  They are striking for a living wage.  The organizers of the group Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) is asking for a few simple things.

  • Respect workers as individuals.
  • Schedule workers for full time- 40 hours a week- positions.
  • Pay workers a living wage, $25,000 per year (full time work) or $13 per hour.
  • Expand their healthcare options to make it affordable to workers.
  • End the retaliation against workers who speak up about problems.

Click here to find a Black Friday protest near you.

This year (and every year) I vow not to shop at Walmart until they begin to give their workers respect and start paying works a living wage.  I know I am only one man, and my family will not make a difference in the billions of dollars in revenue that Walmart brings in.   That is not going to stop me.  The more of us that take a stand against Walmart and their evil greedy mentality we will start to make a difference.

We are already making a difference. Since last year’s strikes, Walmart has lost 2% in overall sales. We need to keep the pressure on Walmart to show them we value the workers more than their low-priced Chinese crap.

(Please take a moment to read and sign OUR Walmart’s declaration for respect.)

Related posts: The Outrageous Truth About A $12 Minimum Wage And Your Grocery Bill

“GOP VALUES” — How The GOP Shows Favoritism to Unearned Income over Hard Work

Horatio Alger

Something else I don’t understand about Republican dogma…

GOP rhetoric seems to idealize the virtues of hard work:  “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” “Just get a job.”  “Quit freeloading.” It’s like they actually believe the Horatio Alger myth.

But look at our federal tax structure, and the changes Republicans have forced through since Ronald Reagan.   There is no reward for hard work.  Instead, our current tax system is tilted strongly in favor of those who already have money.  Investment income — unearned income — is now taxed at about half the rate of wage income.

Flashback to the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis: “Even an architect of the Bush tax cuts, economist Glenn Hubbard, tells Rolling Stone that there should have been a ‘revenue contribution’ to the debt-ceiling deal, ‘structured to fall mainly on the well-to-do.’ Instead, the GOP strong-armed America into sacrificing $1 trillion in vital government services – including education, health care and defense – all to safeguard tax breaks for oil companies, yacht owners and hedge-fund managers. The party’s leaders were triumphant: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell even bragged that America’s creditworthiness had been a ‘hostage that’s worth ransoming.’ ”

Now, let’s look at the impact that this VERY ODD tax preference has had on the US economy.

What happens, when our tax system rewards investment income, rather than actual work?

  1. Private equity “investors” use acquired corporations to borrow money – and then use that borrowed money to pay themselves dividends.  “Investment”?  Not hardly.  The acquired corporations go belly-up when they can’t pay pack the debt, leaving hundreds (or thousands) of workers unemployed.  Read “What Mitt Romney Taught Us about America’s Economy.”
  2. CEOs take more compensation as dividends, rather than wages.  Even accounting for inflation, top-tier taxpayers took home six times more dividends in 2009 than in 1992.  “But each dollar paid to the CEO in dividends costs the company (and the economy) a whole lot of money that could have been reinvested. Going back to Fred Smith as an example, his 15 million shares in the company represent only a fraction of the outstanding stock. For Mr. Smith to receive $8.5 million in dividends, personally, the company has to pay out well over $100 million in total dividends – money that could have been invested in new hires, or new planes, or new facilities (or improved employee benefits).”
  3. Some of those CEOs “invest” that money in politics.  And the cycle repeats itself.

“Pull yourself up by your bootstraps”??!? Bootstraps are getting very hard to find, these days.

(But please don’t shop for them at Walmart.  The corporation’s “Lowest Prices” policy has had a devastating effect on the US economy.  “Wal-Mart has the power to squeeze profit-killing concessions from vendors. To survive in the face of its pricing demands, makers of everything from bras to bicycles to blue jeans have had to lay off employees and close U.S. plants in favor of outsourcing products from overseas.”   Meanwhile, Walton family members – who receive about half of all dividends paid by Walmart – are doing just fine.)

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