For years, Walmart has been viewed as one of the greatest capitalist villains. Whether it comes to their pregnancy policy or simply their employees, things are not very bright. When it comes to their employees, they’re paid low wages, do not get benefits, deal with unreliable hours and scheduling, and some have reported working in horrendous conditions.
Walmart is known to produce items in countries for low wages and selling them for bargain prices. Walmart has built an empire over the years, however, their employees have been left in the dark. Before we take a closer look at the new changes made, let’s examine the richest family in America.
The Walton Family
Founded in 1962 by Sam Walton, Walmart has made the Walton family the richest family in America, with a 2015 net worth of $149 billion. Think about that for a second. There are just over 7.1 billion people on this planet. If the Walton family were to give every individual on earth $10, they would still have $71 billion left over.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with hard work and building an empire that allows you to give back to the community and employees. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case with Walmart. As the Walton family rakes in billions each year, their employees are living in poverty. Many of their employees are living off of food stamps and are on some form of public assistance. Based on these needs, it’s estimated that taxpayers subsidize Walmart with approximately $3 billion yearly.
Unlike their employees, however, Sam Walton’s three children own half of the outstanding shares. To put this into perspective, if they worked within Walmart to receive their checks, these individuals would hypothetically be handed $1.5 million every hour. In comparison to Walmart’s actual hardworking employees, who make an average of $8.81 an hour, the divide is beyond astronomical. Most employees would be in heaven if they earned $25,000 a year which is what the Waltons receive every minute.
How Walmart Employees Are Treated
It’s no secret that Walmart employees aren’t treated with the respect that they deserve. How can anyone make a living, working for under $9 an hour? These are the people that are driving profits and allowing the Walton family to become increasingly rich. Not only are the wages bad, but hours are reportedly just as frustrating.
As a full-time employee, it’s been stated that employees are lucky if they get 32-35 hours weekly. For those that work overtime without permission, well, they’re written up for it. This is, of course, unacceptable, but things are even worse in foreign countries. One woman working as a clothing manufacturer in Bangladesh reported reported that she worked from 7:45 AM to 10 PM, seven days a week, and did not have a day off in six months.
Even more disturbing was the information released by the International Labor Rights Fund regarding the refusal of gloves. In Nicaragua, a factory wasn’t provided adequate gloves from the seamstresses and fabric cutters. It was reported that it was cheaper to send bloody clothing to get washed before shipment than supplying proper equipment. It’s not surprising then that Walmart faces approximately 17 lawsuits a day, equating to around 5,000 lawsuits yearly. Between 1998 and 2002 alone, Walmart was fined $135, 540 accusations were based on child labor violations.
Employee Policies Are Changing
I could go on and on regarding lawsuits and employee exploitation, as Walmart has been around for many years. So, what’s going on today? How are Walmart employees currently being treated? You may have heard that Walmart is providing a raise for their employees but have you looked into what exactly this means?
This past year, Walmart voluntarily agreed to raise pay for 40 percent of their US workers. Wages will be increased from $9 to $10 an hour in 2016. Although this is still higher than America’s minimum hourly wage of $7.25, it’s not enough for people to make a decent living. In order to further protect their employee’s standard of living, they’ve decided to offer fixed schedules and will allow employees to sign up for open shifts. It’s important to note that these changes will not take effect in Canada.
When this news was first released, you can imagine that this 40 percent population were happy with the improvements that were set to take place. With that being said, for the hundreds of thousands of workers who will not get a raise, the opposite effect is occurring. Senior workers are now expressing that they will be making close to the same if not the same as newer, less experienced employees.
The truth is, employees at Walmart feel unappreciated. With this new policy, Walmart hopes that there will be less turnover, decreasing money spent on training. Some employees suspect that their hours will be cut and that annual raises will be reduced in order to compensate for the wage increase for new workers. If companies (not just Walmart) want to maintain high morale amongst their employees, they need to raise employee compensation for all their staff members, not just those who earn lower wages. How these changes will truly affect employees has yet to be seen.
Walmart Isn’t the Only Company That Needs to Pay Attention to Their Employees
The majority of new jobs in America are within personal services like retail, with low paid positions and bad working hours. According the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average retail worker who puts in full-time hours is making between $18,000 and $21,000 yearly.
The question is, if these individuals got a raise, would this cost the consumer more to purchase items? A recent study conducted by Demos provided some enlightening information. They looked at the effects of raising the lowest paid retail workers wage to $25,000 per year for full-time work. This would positively impact five million retail workers and their families based on the nation’s largest retail companies.
If these adjustments were made, providing a standard wage equivalent to $25,000 for a full-time, year-round employee, over 700,000 Americans would be lifted out of poverty. It’s said that the economy would grow, providing 100,000 new jobs. So, what would this mean for consumers?
If retail companies would pass on providing the entire cost of this hypothetical raise, shoppers would likely see an increase of 1 percent. The study found that if retailers passed half of the costs onto customers, households would pay an average of $17.73 more a year (15 cents a shopping trip).
Today, over 46 million Americans are living below the poverty line. With the retail sector making positive changes, this industry could potentially impact the poverty status of 1.5 million Americans. The bottom line is this: America’s largest retail companies play a critical role in terms of the nation’s economy and the well-being of millions of people.