-A model on the march
As the world's
largest corporation and the nation's leading retailer rapidly expands
into core urban areas from its original base in small Southern and Midwestern
towns, Wal-Mart stores (especially its huge Supercenters with grocery
departments) face many objections. Their size destroys community character
(the National Trust for Historic Preservation recently said superstores
threatened the entire state of Vermont); they create traffic problems
and urban sprawl, and they leave behind ugly, unused hulks as business
strategies shift (371 Wal-Marts currently stand empty).
low-road labor strategy drives countless other companies to cut wages
and benefits of both retail and manufacturing workers and to buy more
products from lowest-wage producers overseas, leading to what critics
call the "Walmartization" of America.
competition does lower prices, it also depresses wages and eliminates
jobs. One 1999 study reported that 1.5 jobs had been lost for every job
that Wal-Mart createD.
But "Walmartization of America has a broader impact than just retail workers,"
says Greg Denier, spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers,
which represents grocery workers. "Wal-Mart probably has had more negative
impact on manufacturing than on other jobs in the United States.
also squeezes American consumer goods producers, forcing them to cut labor
costs, move overseas or be replaced by foreign suppliers. Accounting for
10 percent of all U.S. imports from China in 2002, the corporation even
pressures wages downward in poor countries, from El Salvador to Bangladesh.
It also drives competitors to import more, pushing the True Value hardware
store cooperative to boost imports from less than 1 percent of its products
to 18 percent.
also shifts many of its costs to taxpayers (or other businesses that
indirectly pay costs of Wal-Mart's underinsured employees). A recent
study by Good Jobs First, an organization that monitors economic development
found that state and local governments had given at least $1 billion
in subsidies to stores and distribution centers.
also pays so little that many of its workers rely on state healthcare
subsidies, food stamps, housing vouchers and other public aid. According
to a recent study by the University of California at Berkeley Center for
Labor Research and Education, California alone spends $10 billion annually
to subsidize Wal-Mart and similar low-wage employers. Congressional Democratic
staff calculates that federal taxpayers pay $2,103 per year in subsidies
for the average Wal-Mart worker