Why Wal-Mart Should Be Kept Out of Your Community

April 1, 2005

I pulled together a list of reasons why a proposed Wal-Mart should be kept out of my community. They all apply to yours too.

Not About NIMBY: We are not saying “not in my back yard.” We don’t want to see a Wal-Mart built in a different part of the county, or in a different county, or in a different state. We are opposed to Wal-Marts being built anywhere. It is here in our neighborhood that we have the possibility of stopping one, as others around the country have stopped other planned Wal-Marts.

Wal-Mart Kept Out of Chicago:
http://ilcaonline.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=594
http://ilcaonline.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=394

Wal-Mart kept out of New York City:
http://ilcaonline.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=…
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Wal-Mart is not low-cost:
Wal-mart’s success is based on offering low-cost items:
http://ilcaonline.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=…

When the full effects of Wal-Mart on a community are considered, the cost is very high, as argued here by:

The Democratic staff of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce:
http://edworkforce.house.gov/democrats/WALMARTREPORT.pdf

here by Ralph Nader:
http://ilcaonline.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=…

here by AFSCME:
http://ilcaonline.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=…

and here by University of California professor of history Nelson Lichtenstein:
http://ilcaonline.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=121

and as documented here by PBS Frontline:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/walmart/

Wal-Mart takes subsidies from the public and fails to pay taxes:

Wal-Mart has received more than $1 billion in subsidies from state and local government, according to a report by the public interest group Good Jobs First. The group combed public records and newspaper files to document more than 240 cases where public funds, tax write-offs and other government subsidies helped Wal-Mart open 160 retail stores and 84 distribution centers in 35 states. The average Wal-Mart store received $2.8 million in public subsidies while its distribution centers (warehouses) each received an average $7.4 million in government assistance, the study found. Public aid to Wal-Mart included financing through tax-exempt bonds, construction of access roads, installation of utilities and tax abatements. The full report (which also describes how citizens have organized to block public aid to Wal-Mart) is available at: www.goodjobsfirst.org

Each Wal-Mart store employing 200 people costs taxpayers approximately $420,750 annually (about $2,103 per employee) in public social services used by Wal-Mart workers whose low wages and unaffordable health insurance mean most of them are among the working poor, according to the Democratic staff of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce. Wal-Mart employees who utilize their health care confront high deductibles and co-payments. A single worker could end up spending around $6,400 out-of-pocket, or nearly 45% of their average annual full-time salary, before seeing a single benefit from the Wal-Mart health plan, the report found.
http://edworkforce.house.gov/democrats/WALMARTREPORT.pdf

Wal-Mart is a leading user of state subsidized health care for its employees, in several states that track the employers of recipients
http://ilcaonline.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=…
http://ilcaonline.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=…

Wal-Mart routinely violates its workers’ right to organize a union:

Wal-mart shows workers anti-union videos before hiring them, imposes anti-union meetings on groups of employees and individuals, closes stores and departments if they are unionized, threatens to close any store that unionizes, fires and discriminates against employees who favor unionization, transfers hand-picked anti-union employees into units that have won the right to vote on unionization after protracted legal struggles, prevents employees from talking to each other, prevents organizers from entering stores. Were Wal-Mart required to provide a union with a complete and accurate list of contact information for its store’s employees in a timely manner, and to recognize a union on the basis of card-check organizing, it is almost certain that Wal-Mart would abandon its plans to open a store. The right to organize is clearly established by international conventions to which the United States is a party and by US law.
http://ilcaonline.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=…
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Wal-Mart does not pay a living wage:

Wal-Mart sales clerks made an average of $8.23 an hour-or $13,861 a year-in 2001. That’s nearly $800
below the federal poverty line for a family of three. (Source: Anthony Bianco and Wendy Zellner, “Is Wal-Mart Too Powerful?” BusinessWeek, October 6, 2003) And that’s full-time. Many Wal-Mart employees are required to work 32-hour weeks.

U.S. counties where new Wal-Mart stores were built between 1987 and 1998 experienced higher poverty rates than other U.S. counties. Source: Stephan J. Goetz and Hema Swaminathan, “Wal-Mart and County-Wide Poverty,” Pennsylvania State University, October 18, 2004

Were Wal-Mart required to pay a minimum wage of $14, as just agreed to by Georgetown University for its janitors, and to increase that minimum each year, indexed to the cost of living, Wal-Mart would almost certainly not open a store.

Wal-Mart cheats workers out of pay for hours worked:

Over 39 class-action lawsuits against the company in thirty states have been filed against Wal-Mart, claiming tens of millions of dollars in back pay for hundreds of thousands of Wal-Mart employees. Wal-Mart was ordered to pay over $50 million in unpaid wages to 69,000 Colorado workers. In a Texas class-action lawsuit that was certified on behalf of 200,000 former and current Wal-Mart employees, statisticians estimated that the company short-changed its workers $150,000 over four years just based on the frequency of employees working through their daily 15 minute breaks.
http://edworkforce.house.gov/democrats/WALMARTREPORT.pdf

Wal-Mart does not provide decent benefits:

Part-time Wal-Mart workers are not eligible for family medical coverage and become eligible for individual coverage after two years with the company, according to Dan Fogleman, Wal-Mart spokesperson. Source: John Heys and Paul Wilson, Wal-Mart tops state CHIP list: Retailer stands out in program for uninsured kids, Charleston (W. Va.) Gazette, December 26, 2004. In addition, many fulltime employees cannot take advantage of the insurance offered, because of the low rate of their wages and the high cost of co-payments.

Wal-Mart exploits immigrants and children, and discriminates against women:

Wal-Mart took another hit on March 25, 2005, agreeing to pay $11 million and settle federal allegations that undocumented immigrants have been paid to clean its stores for years. The government investigation, called Operation Rollback, found undocumented immigrant janitors working at 60 Wal-Mart locations in 21 states since 2000. The settlement came barely a month after word that Wal-Mart agreed to settle other federal charges that it violated child labor laws.
http://ilcaonline.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=…

Wal-Mart is a defendant in a historic class action lawsuit alleging that the company discriminates against women in promotions, jobs assignments, training, and pay throughout the U.S. Source: Judge certifies Wal-Mart class action lawsuit: Plaintiffs’ attorneys: 1.6 million women charge discrimination, The Associated Press, June 22, 2004.
http://ilcaonline.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=121
http://ilcaonline.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=102
Another source on this:
Six women filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart in California claiming the company discriminated against women by systematically denying them promotions and paying them less than men. The lawsuit has expanded to potentially the largest class-action lawsuit in U.S. history on behalf of more than one million current and former female employees. While two-thirds of the company’s hourly workers are female, women hold only one-third of managerial positions and constitute less than 15 percent of store managers.
http://edworkforce.house.gov/democrats/WALMARTREPORT.pdf

Wal-Mart causes job loss:

Wal-Mart puts smaller businesses out of business and forces suppliers to send jobs overseas. In the first decade after Wal-Mart arrived in Iowa, the state lost 555 grocery stores, 298 hardware stores, 293 building supply stores, 161 variety stores, 158 women’s apparel stores, 153 shoe stores, 116 drugstores, and 111 men’s and boys’ apparel stores. Source: Kenneth Stone, Iowa State University, Impact of Wal-Mart Stores and other Mass Merchandisers in Iowa, 1983-1993, Economic Development Review, Spring 1995.

Other stores lower their wages to compete with Wal-Mart. This trend was the main cause of the supermarket strike in California in 2003. More significantly, Wal-Mart demands the lowest prices from its suppliers, driving down wages in various industries in this country, and causing more outsourcing of jobs than are caused by any other company.

An estimated 50-60 percent of Wal-Mart’s products are imported from overseas. Over 10 percent of all U.S. imports from China go to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart plays its suppliers off of one another in search of lower and lower prices. American suppliers have been forced to relocate their businesses overseas to maintain Wal-Mart contracts; this has led to dramatic job losses in the American manufacturing sector. Overseas manufacturers are forced to engage in cut-throat competition that further erodes wages and working conditions for American and global factory workers.
http://edworkforce.house.gov/democrats/WALMARTREPORT.pdf

Wal-Mart damages the environment:

Wal-Mart pollutes the planet by manufacturing the majority of its products halfway around the globe from where it sells them and shipping them to the stores. Wal-Mart makes no significant efforts toward environmentally sustainable practices, the sale of environmentally friendly items, or environmentally friendly building construction. The size of its stores causes massive traffic problems.

Wal-Mart’s influence leads to government corruption:

http://ilcaonline.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=…
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The heirs to Wal-Mart’s fortune pour millions into attacking public education:

http://www.blackcommentator.com/85/85_cover_walmart.html

Wal-Mart has lobbied for legislation to allow it to make truckers work an unsafe 16-hour day:

http://ilcaonline.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=…

Wal-Mart means bad news for African-Americans:

http://ilcaonline.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=226

If we must have a big-box store, there are alternatives to Wal-Mart:

According to the Brennan Center, Costco’s workers make an average of $15.97 per hour, a full 38 percent
more than the $11.52 per hour average paid by Sam’s Club. Costco also pays thousands more for workers’ health and retirement and includes more of its employees in its health care, 401(k), and profit-sharing plans. Employee turnover is considerably lower: 6 percent for Costco, 21 percent for Sam’s Club. Source: Paul Lightfoot, Adequate Minimum Wage Helps Businesses, Workers, Economy, The Journal News (N.Y.), June 16, 2004.
http://ilcaonline.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=223

A couple of things to try:

Hartford, Conn., passed a law requiring big-box stores to allow organizers to talk to people there – a free speech issue that civil liberties groups will care about.
http://ilcaonline.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=…

This conference might be useful for anyone working to stop a Wal-Mart:
http://ilcaonline.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=…

David Swanson is a board member of Progressive Democrats of America. His website is http://davidswanson.org