Friday, November 23, 2012

Walmart's low wages, every day

This comes a little late for those who are already out there busting doors, pepper-spraying their opponents, and otherwise celebrating the corporation's most wonderful time of the year.

A half century ago America’s largest private-sector employer was General Motors, whose full-time workers earned an average hourly wage of around $50, in today’s dollars, including health and pension benefits.

Today, America’s largest employer is Walmart, whose average employee earns $8.81 an hour. A third of Walmart’s employees work less than 28 hours per week and don’t qualify for benefits.

There are many reasons for the difference – including globalization and technological changes that have shrunk employment in American manufacturing while enlarging it in sectors involving personal services, such as retail.

But one reason, closely related to this seismic shift, is the decline of labor unions in the United States. In the 1950s, over a third of private-sector workers belonged to a union. Today fewer than 7 percent do. As a result, the typical American worker no longer has the bargaining clout to get a sizeable share of corporate profits.

It was not surprising to see all of the Khronically Konservative Kommenters blame the bakers' union for the demise of Hostess this past week. After all, a company's primary product being Type II diabetes and a management that awarded itself bonuses every time they put the operation into "a chapter", as Donald Trump once said, cannot possibly be responsible for its own failure.

If we still had a strong labor movement in this nation, I assert that people wouldn't be peeing into cups in order to acquire or even keep their jobs, and thus would not be demanding that poor people do the same in order to secure some meager welfare benefits.

Card-check. "Right-to-work" laws. Reagan -- a former union man himself -- busting the air traffic controllers' union. This triumph of capitalist pigs over common people goes all the way back to the Democratic National Convention of 1944, when the party bosses (like Houston's own Jesse Jones) installed Harry Truman over Henry Wallace as vice-presidential nominee. Watch Oliver Stone's "Untold History of the United States" for the story.

But that's a digression. Later this morning at the new Walmart in Houston's Heights, and all across the nation, people will protest outside the stores, calling attention to the fact that Walmart earns $16 billion in profits annually yet pays its employees starvation wages (which is why so many of them are also on food stamps).

The most effective way to fix this, as the conservatives will attest, is through the free market. Don't buy anything today unless you're buying it from a locally owned business, preferably a mom-and-pop. And for God's sake, if you have to go to Walmart, join the real people outside asking the corporate people inside for a little better way of life.

No comments: