Don’t be merry shopping at Walmart

James J. Devine

James J. Devine


By James J. Devine
With Christmas around the corner, Democrats and labor advocates who have long been critical of the non-union retailer have been emphasizing that Walmart’s low wages end up costing government more than it is worth because many Walmart employees seek food stamps, Medicaid and other public assistance.

Dr. Seuss’s Grinch, Charles Dickens’s Ebenezer Scrooge and Henry F. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life, would blush at how Walmart pays such low wages and provides meager benefits although it is the biggest employer in the country.

In Florida, Walmart topped a list of companies operating in the Sunshine State with the largest number of employees and family members (12,300) eligible for Medicaid, the joint state-federal partnership that insures the poor and disabled, according to a 2005 Tampa Bay Times story.

An Ohio Job and Family Services Department report found Walmart to be the state’s top employer for workers and family members who receive Medicaid (16,098), food stamps (14,799) and cash assistance (803) in January 2012.

When the federal poverty line wage for a family of four was $17,000, the average Walmart employee was paid just $13,000 a year. Walmart annually drives down retail wages by $3 billion.

That is why more than half of the states have filed lawsuits charging Walmart with unfair employment practices.

A 2010 study measuring the impact on New Jersey municipal taxes of 30 Walmart openings over a ten-year period from 1998-2007 found no significant benefits.

Instead, according to that report, “Property values may fall simply because of the noise, traffic and trash from a Wal-Mart.”

The advent of community-killing SuperWalmart stores only drives the pace faster, with bigger and more brutal local impacts accompanying the incursion of America’s most aggressively anti-union company.

With hundreds of locations, ShopRite hires workers to fill entry-level positions and professional careers in a family environment with opportunities for growth. ShopRite management has a great working relationship with the United Food and Commercial Workers.

Wegmans Food Markets not only spent $5 million give college tuition assistance to 2000 employees and lavished other generous benefits on workers, the company expressed support for a bill in Congress that would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10.

Costco gets rave reviews for employee satisfaction and high approval ratings for the wholesale giant’s CEO because 88 percent of its workers have company-sponsored health insurance.

Policies that keep employees happy and turnover low are not hurting companies like ShopRite, Wegmans and Costco. These very profitable companies provide good working conditions and tremendous shopping values for consumers.

Greed is unhealthy, wrong and undefendable, but as the Star-Ledger said of Walmart, “This company exemplifies the cold-hearted corporatism that has knocked down middle-class families in America, creating a new army of low-wage workers who need a second job just to lift their families out of poverty.”


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