Posted 11/18/2013 12:00 am
TO THE EDITOR:
Every worker deserves a living wage. Those women and men who devote their time and labor to a company should be compensated, and they should receive enough money to live a decent life. Not every employer can afford to provide this, but Wal-Mart can.
Wal-Mart is not a startup company needing to pay low wages while it gets its feet off the ground. Last fiscal year, the 51-year-old Wal-Mart made nearly $17 billion in net profit. That money is what Wal-Mart possessed after expenditures and taxes. Last year’s returns were no fluke. In the past five years, the company has posted a net profit of more than $75 billion.
Most fair-minded people probably assume those earnings are distributed among all Wal-Mart workers, from sales associates to corporate executives, albeit with management getting a larger slice. Unfortunately, the reality is that nearly all this money goes to just a few already rich executives and heirs.
Arkansas Business Online Editor Lance Turner recently wrote an article on Wal-Mart’s promotion of just 25,000 of its 2.1 million person workforce. This decision leaves the vast majority of Wal-Mart workers unaffected. In a move both progressive and cynical, Wal-Mart has helped a tiny percentage of its employees (garnering good public relations), while millions are left to continue at salaries and benefits that put them below or just above the poverty line.
Wal-Mart’s indifference to the plight of its workers is particularly troubling in light of its enormous profits and where that money goes. Michael Duke, CEO, received nearly $18 million from his company in 2012 alone, while the average worker made just $22,000. The six Walton heirs now own more wealth than 124 million average Americans combined. If any company can afford to pay its workers a bit more, it is Wal-Mart.
Of course, Wal-Mart can get away with these practices partly by passing the costs on to the taxpayer. When Wal-Mart bosses refuse to pay their workers enough money to eat, cover rent and provide for their children’s health care, government programs like Medicaid, public housing and food stamps make up the difference. This allows Wal-Mart’s owners and heirs to keep billions of dollars for themselves and forces the average American worker and taxpayer to support their extravagant lifestyle.
Take the time to talk with a Wal-Mart worker, and you will quickly learn just how little Wal-Mart pays them for their time and labor. You may also notice a certain fear of their bosses (Wal-Mart is notorious for anti-union activity). That is no way for an Arkansas company to treat its workers, and Arkansans should demand change in both Wal-Mart’s corporate practices and our laws to make sure that all workers, Wal-Mart and otherwise, are treated fairly and with respect.
Democratic Socialists of Arkansas