Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Live From the Road: Blogging from the WakeUp WalMart Bus

I'm onboard Smiley, the WakeUp WalMart tour bus, and we are currently stopped in Vancouver, Washington, for a meet and greet with a local group in the midst of a "site fight" - in other words, they're trying to stop Wal-Mart from opening up yet another megastore and forcing nearby small businesses to liquidate. After we get back on the road I'll be posting another update.

And here is the first intallment of WalMart Facts. I'll be posting a new factsheet with each post I write.

Wal-Mart Wages and Worker Rights

A Substantial Number of Wal-Mart Associates earn far below the poverty line

  • In 2001, sales associates, the most common job in Wal-Mart, earned on average $8.23 an hour for annual wages of $13,861. The 2001 poverty line for a family of three was $14,630. [“Is Wal-Mart Too Powerful?”, Business Week, 10/6/03, US Dept of Health and Human Services 2001 Poverty Guidelines, 2001]
  • A 2003 wage analysis reported that cashiers, the second most common job, earn approximately $7.92 per hour and work 29 hours a week. This brings in annual wages of only $11,948. [“Statistical Analysis of Gender Patterns in Wal-Mart’s Workforce”, Dr. Richard Drogin 2003]

Wal-Mart Associates don't earn enough to support a family

  • The average two-person family (one parent and one child) needed $27,948 to meet basic needs in 2005, well above what Wal-Mart reports that its average full-time associate earns. Wal-Mart claimed that its average associate earned $9.68 an hour in 2005. That would make the average associate's annual wages $17,114. [“Basic Family Budget Calculator” online at]

Wage increases would cost Wal-Mart relatively little

  • Wal-Mart can cover the cost of a dollar an hour wage increase by raising prices a half penny per dollar. For instance, a $2.00 pair of socks would then cost $2.01. This minimal increase would annually add up to $1,800 for each employee. [Analysis of Wal-Mart Annual Report 2005]

Wal-Mart forces employees to work off-the-clock

  • Wal-Mart’s 2006 Annual Report reported that the company faced 57 wage and hour lawsuits. Major lawsuits have either been won or are working their way through the legal process in states such as California, Indiana, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington. [Wal-Mart Annual Report 2006]
  • In December 2005, a California court ordered Wal-Mart to pay $172 million in damages for failing to provide meal breaks to nearly 116,000 hourly workers as required under state law. Wal-Mart appealed the case. [The New York Times, December 23, 2005]
  • A Pennsylvania court, also in December 2005, approved a class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. by employees in Pennsylvania who say the company pressured them to work off the clock. The class could grow to include nearly 150,000 current or former employees. [Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 12, 2006 ]
  • In Pennsylvania, the lead plaintiff alleges she worked through breaks and after quitting time — eight to 12 unpaid hours a month, on average — to meet Wal-Mart’s work demands. “One of Wal-Mart’s undisclosed secrets for its profitability is its creation and implementation of a system that encourages off-the-clock work for its hourly employees,” Dolores Hummel, who worked at a Sam’s Club in Reading from 1992-2002, charged in her suit. [Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 12, 2006 ]

Wal-Mart executives did not act on warnings they were violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

  • Wal-Mart has known for years of a massive companywide problem of fair labor standards violations but did not take sufficient steps to address the problem. An internal Wal-Mart audit of one week of time records in 2000 from 25,000 employees had alerted Wal-Mart officials to potential violations. The audit found 60,767 missed breaks and 15,705 lost meal times. It also alerted Wal-Mart executives to 1,371 instances of minors working too late, during school hours, or for too many hours in a day. [Steven Greenhouse, “Suits Say Wal-Mart Forces Workers to Toil Off the Clock,” New York Times, A1, 6/25/02]
  • Despite this knowledge, Wal-Mart had to settle in January 2005 for violations that took place from 1998 to 2002, Wal-Mart agreed to pay $135,540 to settle U.S. Dept. of Labor charges that the company had violated provisions against minors operating hazardous machinery. [Ann Zimmerman, “Wal-Mart's Labor Agreement Is Criticized by Former Official,” Wall Street Journal, 2/15/05]
  • In March 2005, Wal-Mart agreed to pay $11 million to settle allegations that it had failed to pay overtime to janitors, many of whom worked seven nights a week. [Arkansas Democrat Gazette, 11/7/05, Forbes, 10/10/05]
  • The State of Connecticut, investigating Wal-Mart’s child labor practices after the federal investigation ended, found 11 more violations. In June 2005, Connecticut fined Wal-Mart Stores Inc. $3,300 over child labor violations after a state investigation found that some minors lacked proper paperwork and were operating hazardous equipment at the stores. [“Wal-Mart Is Fined for Child Labor Violations,” Bloomberg News, June 22, 2005]
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