Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price
I highly recommend seeing Robert Greenwald's latest film, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. I saw it last night and was reminded of the many downtowns I visited over the past six months that are slowly disappearing, thanks to Wal-Mart.
The film was effective in that it didn't focus on the usual anti-big box activists; it focuses on people living in communities that have been negatively impacted by Wal-Mart, including Republicans. Too many left-leaning articles and films ignore Republicans, which is one of the reasons why I traveled to the so-called "red states" this summer. In one scene, a liberal preacher and a suburban Republican from Arizona successfuly work on a campaign to prevent Wal-Mart from coming to town.
The challenge will be to convince people who actually shop at Wal-Mart to watch this film.
A few facts about Wal-Mart:
*"On average, Wal-Mart sales clerks -- "associates" in company parlance -- pulled in $8.23 an hour, or $13,861 a year, in 2001, according to documents filed in a lawsuit pending against the company."
*A Wal-Mart Worker may donate money from their paycheck to the Critical Need Fund, a program to aid other employees in times of crisis, like a fire or tornado. In 2004, Wal-Mart Employees gave over $5 million to help fellow workers; The Walton Family gave $6,000
*The Walton family Has Given less than 1% of Their Wealth to Charity Bill Gates has given 58%
*The Walton family received a federal tax cut of: $91,500.00 per HOUR in the 2004 tax year
*"A recent study by researchers at UC Berkeley's Labor Center has quantified what happened to retail wages when Wal-Mart set up shop, drawing on 15 years of data on actual store openings. The study found that Wal-Mart drives down wages in urban areas, with an annual loss of at least $3 billion dollars in earnings for retail workers."
UPDATE: Since the completion of our film, the study has been finalized and published, and the published findings produced a different number for the annual loss in retail earnings than the preliminary figure we used in the film. The published study ultimately found that Wal-Mart actually reduced the take-home pay of retail workers by $4.7 BILLION dollars annually. Unfortunately for the retail workers this statistic concerns, Wal-Mart's effect on retail wages turns out to be worse than we had anticipated.
*In 2004, a study released the UC Berkeley Labor Center found that "reliance by Wal-Mart workers on public assistance programs in California comes at a cost to taxpayers of an estimated $86 million annually; this is comprised of $32 million in health related expenses and $54 million in other assistance."
*In the film, a former Wal-Mart co-manager claims that store managers are told to "Keep the number of associates from being full time, as many as you can, keep many of them part time, as much as you can."
*"Wal-Mart will escape criminal sanctions and pay $11 million to settle claims stemming from a federal investigation of illegal workers hired by the company's cleaning contractors, the company said Friday...The more than four-year investigation was led by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and federal prosecutors in Pennsylvania. It produced 245 arrests of undocumented workers in 2003."
*In an initial search of "electronic archives of local newspapers to find cases of Wal-Mart stores that had received" development subsidies, Good Jobs First uncovered "91 stores that have received public assistance. In total, these subsidies were worth about $245 million to Wal-Mart and the developers of shopping centers in which a Wal-Mart store served as an anchor. Individual subsidy deals in those 91 stores ranged from less than $1 million to about $12 million, with an average of about $2.8 million."