What Every American Needs to Know Excerpted, with permission, from James Hightower,"Thieves in High Places" The owners of one of Americaʹs premiere retail corporations is comprised of five of the ten richest people in the world, all from the same family. Their personal wealth eclipses $100 BILLION dollars. Last year the companyʹs CEO was paid a cool $11.5 million, more than the annual salaries of 765 of his employees combined! The companyʹs profits are over $7 BILLION annually. In these difficult economic times how do they do it? * This company runs ads featuring the United States flag and proclaims ʺWe Buy Americanʺ. In 2001 they moved their worldwide purchasing headquarters to China and are the largest importer of Chinese goods in the US, purchasing over $10 BILLION of Chinese‐made products annually. Products made mostly by women and children working in the labor hell‐holes China is famous for. * Their average employee working in the US makes $15,000 a year, $7.22 per hour! * These employees gross under $11,000 a year. * The company brags that 70% of their employees are full time, but fails to disclose that they count anyone working 28 hours a week or more as full time. * There are no health care benefits unless you have worked for the company for two years. * With a turnover rate averaging above 50% per year, only 38% of their 1.3 million employees have health care coverage. ‐In California alone itʹs estimated that the taxpayers pay over $20 million annually to subsidize health care benefits for these employees who get none from this behemoth corporation. * According to a report by PBSʹs ʺNowʺ with Bill Moyer, their managers are trained in what government social programs are available for theseʺemployeesʺ to take advantage of so that the company can pass on those costs to you and me. It allows them to not only keep their $7 BILLION in annual profits, but to do so by substituting benefits they refuse to provide with benefits paid for with taxpayer dollars. * This company holds the record for the most suits filed against it by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A lawyer from ʺBusiness Weekʺ (not exactly the bastion for supporting Labor) said, ʺI have never seen this kind of blatant disregard for the law.ʺ They had to pay $750,000.00 in Arizona for blatant discrimination against the disabled! The judge was so incensed that he also order them to run commercials admitting their guilt. * The National Labor Relations Board has issued over 40 formal complaints against the corporation in 25 different states in just the past five years. The NLRBʹs top lawyer believed that their labor violations, such as Illegal spying on employees, fraudulent record keeping, falsifying time cards to avoid paying overtime, threats, illegal firings for union organizing etc., were so widespread that he was looking into filing a very rare national complaint against the company. (The company contributed $2,159,330.00 to GW Bush and the GOP in 2000 and 2002. The NLRB attorney was replaced when President Bush took office.). * Nearly 1 MILLION women are involved in the largest class‐action suit every filed against a corporation. Although women make up over 65% of this corporations work force only 10% of them are managers. The women who have become store managers make $16,400 a year LESS then the men. * The corporation took out nearly 350,000 life insurance policies on their employees. They did not tell the employees and then named the corporation as the beneficiary. They are now being sued by numerous employees, and although the corporation has stopped this practice of purchasing what is known as ʺDead Peasant Policyʹsʺ, a company spokesperson stated, ʺThe company feels it acted properly and legally in doing this.ʺ * They force employees to work after ordering them to punch out. In Texas alone this practice of ʺwage theftʺ is estimated to have cost employees $30 million per year. Wage theft or ʺoff‐the‐clockʺ lawsuits are pending in 25 states. In New Mexico they paid $400,000.00 in one suit and in Colorado they had to pay $50 MILLION to settle one class‐action case brought against them. In Oregon a jury found them guilty of locking employees in the building and of forcing unpaid overtime. * With 4,400 stores they practice ʺpredatory pricing.ʺ They come into a community and sell their goods at below cost until they drive local businesses under. Once they have captured the market the prices go up. * Locally owned and operated businesses put virtually all of their money back into the community which helps keep the local economies vibrant. This corporation sucks the money out of the local community, decreases wages and benefits and ships the profits out of state. * This company doesnʹt buy locally or bank locally. They replace three decent paying jobs in a community with two poorly paid ʺpart‐timersʺ. * In Kirksville, Missouri when this company came to town, four clothing stores, four grocery stores, a stationary store, a fabric store and a lawn‐ and‐garden store all went under. Eleven businesses are now gone. (The above information can be found in ʺThieves in High Placesʺ, James Hightower, The Penguin Group, New York, NY, 2003 p. 166 ‐ 193.) Now you know how they can claim, ʺAlways low prices.ʺ Wal‐Mart is the largest corporation in the world, larger than General Motors and ExxonMobil. Wal‐Mart will reap over 250 billion in sales in 2003, which is larger than the entire gross national product of Israel and Ireland combined. It has over 1.3 million employees. It sells more groceries, jewelry, photo processing, dog food, and vitamins than any other chain in the world. Wal‐Mart refuses to stock Emergency Contraception at its pharmacies. Wal‐Mart & Samʹs Club is owned by the Walton family. They will also never see a dime from my wallet again. Please feel free to circulate this memo to everyone on your email lists. Is Wal-Mart just Evil? Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price Reviewed by Dan DiMaggio THE NEW film by Robert Greenwald, Wal‐Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, exposes the brutal nature of the world’s largest corporation. In an indication of the intensifying anger at the corporate domination of US society, of which Wal‐Mart is the central symbol, hundreds of thousands of people flocked to libraries, union halls, and campuses to see the film in the first week of its release in November 2005. The film shows Wal‐Mart doing what it does best: making huge profits while keeping its workers in poverty, driving small businesses into bankruptcy, exploiting workers in poor countries, and disregarding the environment. Wal‐Mart’s strategy is based on ruthlessly cutting costs, allowing it to undersell its competitors and earn enormous profits. As Jim Hightower put it: ʺWal‐Mart and the Waltons got to the top the old‐fashioned way – by roughing people up. The corporate ethos emanating from the Bentonville headquarters dictated two guiding principles for all managers: extract the very last penny possible from human toil and squeeze the last dime from every supplierʺ. (CorpWatch.org) The strategy has worked well for the owners of Wal‐Mart, the Walton family, who now make up five of the top ten wealthiest Americans, with a combined fortune worth nearly $100 billion. While the Waltons all live on vast estates, Wal‐Mart workers earn poverty wages and are forced to rely on food stamps, section eight housing, Medicaid, and other publicly‐ funded welfare provisions to take care of their families. Wal‐Mart is probably the fiercest anti‐union company in the US, and even the slightest hint of an effort by workers to form a union is enough to warrant a call to the company’s 24‐hour hotline and a visit from their anti‐ union ‘Rapid Response’ team. Nothing stands before Wal‐Mart’s profits, not even the safety of its customers. Wal‐Mart parking lots have been the scene of hundreds of crimes including murders and rapes, but Wal‐Mart has refused to hire security guards to monitor their lots because it would cut into their profits. Wal‐Mart also shows nearly complete disregard for the environment. Like many other corporations, Wal‐Mart often finds it more profitable to pay millions of dollars in fines for environmental damage and continue polluting, while also lobbying politicians to abolish environmental regulations. The film provides a sharp indictment of Wal‐Mart, but unfortunately it suffers from serious political shortcomings. The filmmaker tends to depict Wal‐Mart as an ‘evil’ corporation, different to others. As Greenwald recently said, ʺWal‐Mart is abusive in ways that other corporations that are committed to profits are not. They have a culture that says it’s okay to do anything as long as it’s good for profits. It’s okay not to give employees health insurance. It’s okay to take money away from communities to build Wal‐Marts. I don’t believe there is any other company that is as aggressively exploiting people as Wal‐Martʺ (Reuters, 2 December, 2006). The makers of the film argue that the solution to Wal‐Mart is more ethical, smaller scale American corporations that pay living wages and benefits. But as the film itself shows, it is companies like Wal‐Mart that are the most successful, not ‘ethical’ companies. The reality is that the system of capitalism, which is based on short‐term profit maximization, forces companies to place profits above people and the environment. Wal‐Mart has been so successful not because it is ‘evil’ but because it has ruthlessly followed the logic of this system. Wal‐Mart’s success illustrates a basic law of capitalism – the inevitable tendency toward greater and greater concentrations of wealth and power, first predicted by Karl Marx over 150 years ago in The Communist Manifesto. Through competition, smaller companies tend to be driven out of business or bought out by their rivals until a few giant monopolies come to dominate the industry. For example, whenever a new Wal‐Mart bullies its way into town, the surrounding small retail outlets are squeezed out of business. They simply can’t match the low prices Wal‐Mart achieves through its ruthless methods and global purchasing power. Wal‐Mart has even used the tactic of moving into a small town, running the local stores out of business and cornering the local market and then either raising prices or relocating 10‐ 20 miles outside of town to a cheaper location! Retail is not the only industry in the US to witness the growth of enormously powerful corporations in recent years. Industries like airlines, software, autos, and the media are now controlled by a few huge mega‐ corporations. The trend toward global concentration of wealth is accelerating. The richest 356 people in the world now enjoy a combined wealth greater than the annual income of 40% of the human race. The 100 biggest companies in the world control 70% of global trade; the combined sales of the top 200 companies are greater than the combined GDP of all but ten nations on earth. There is a growing movement against Wal‐Mart, including communities fighting to prevent the opening of Wal‐Marts in their town, lawsuits against sexism and labor law violations, and attempts to pass legislation to force the company to pay more towards healthcare for its workers. While these are important efforts, history has shown that fundamental change does not happen by relying on the courts or politicians, which are beholden to giant corporations like Wal‐Mart, but by building a mass movement of workers and the oppressed from below to challenge corporate power. Such a mass movement can win important reforms, including unionization, higher pay, healthcare, and laws that bring more control over Wal‐Mart. But as long as corporations continue to privately control the resources of society, they will attack the living conditions of working people at every opportunity, and use their vast resources to dominate the political system. They are forced to do so to compete with other corporations around the world. There can be no ‘democracy’ when the owners of Wal‐Mart have so much power and wealth that they can completely warp the priorities of our society around their narrow need for private profit, dictating laws, diverting resources, reducing millions to poverty, and destroying our environment. The only fundamental solution to this outrage is to take Wal‐Mart out of the hands of the Walton family and instead bring it under public ownership and control. Only such a step could end the undemocratic power of Wal‐Mart’s owners over society and allow society to democratically and rationally decide how to use our resources according to our needs. But why stop at only one corporation? Don’t the inequities of Wal‐Mart fundamentally apply to the rest of the giant corporations, like Microsoft, ExxonMobil, McDonalds, GM, etc, that lord over our economy and society? Wal‐Mart may be extreme, but the same basic situation exists with all of Corporate America. Rather than pointing in the direction of trying to reform or tame the corporate‐dominated system of capitalism, as some argue, the case of Wal‐ Mart powerfully illustrates the need for a complete overturn of that system. Not just Wal‐Mart, but all of the top 500 giant corporations that control the US economy should be publicly owned and democratically controlled by the workers and consumers. This would allow for a new, democratic system based on human needs – socialism. Rather than a race to the bottom among workers in the US and around the world so that a handful of huge multinational corporations can rake in profits, under socialism the resources of society could be harnessed to raise the living standards of ordinary people all over the world, to make possible a new, truly human culture of solidarity and cooperation. Fast Facts about Wal-Mart * Wal‐Mart CEO Lee Scott earned $27 million in 2004, while the average Wal‐Mart worker made $13,861. In just two weeks, Scott earns as much as the average Wal‐Mart worker would earn in a lifetime. * Wal‐Mart is currently facing lawsuits in 31 states in the US for stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from hundreds of thousands of workers, who were forced to work overtime without pay. * A California jury recently ordered Wal‐Mart to pay $172 million to 116,000 workers who were not given meal breaks as required under state law. Always Low Wages, Always Not your average Walmart employee DEAR WALMART, MCDONALDʹS AND STARBUCKS: How Do You Feel About Paying Your Employees So Little That Most Of Them Are Poor? What do you call a trio of companies that made $35 billion in profits last year and yet the majority of their employees make $12 an hour or less? Shrewd? Cheap? Exploitative? Despicable? The reality is that Walmart, McDonaldʹs and Starbucks can pay more and it would actually probably cost them less to do so. Better paid employees stay longer, work harder and spend more of their money at their place of work. But why do they pay such crappy wages to begin with? The consensus about these low‐wage service jobs is that theyʹre low‐wage because theyʹre low‐skilled. But thatʹs not actually true. Theyʹre low‐wage because companies choose to make them low‐wage. No, you say. Low‐wage service jobs are low‐wage because theyʹre low‐ skilled. Itʹs a free market. Companies should pay their employees whatever the market will bear. If those low‐skilled, low‐wage workers had any gumption, theyʹd go get themselves skilled and then then theyʹd be able to get high‐paying, high‐skill jobs. Employers shouldnʹt have to pay employees one cent more than the market will bear. This argument overlooks three things: First, all those good‐paying manufacturing jobs that the U.S. has lost werenʹt always good‐paying. In fact, before unions, minimum‐wage laws, and some enlightened thinking from business owners (see below), they often paid terribly. Second, the manufacturing jobs also werenʹt high‐ or even medium‐ skilled. In fact, most of these manufacturing jobs required no more inherent skill than the skills required to be a cashier at Walmart, a fry cook at McDonaldʹs, or a barista at Starbucks. (Yes, people who work on assembly lines building complex products need training. But cashiers, fry cooks, and baristas need training, too. Donʹt believe this? Go volunteer to be a Walmart cashier or a Starbucks barista for a day. ) Third, it is often in companiesʹ interest—as well as the economyʹs interest—to pay employees more than the market will bear. For one thing, you tend to get better employees. For two, they tend to be more loyal and dedicated. For three, they have more money to spend, some of which might be spent on your products. I donʹt expect monstrous corporations to do right by the people working for them unless they are forced to do so. And itʹs time to force these massive corporations to pay their employees livable wages, it isnʹt like they canʹt afford to and those massive profits (at least in Walmartʹs case) arenʹt doing anyone any good sitting in the Walton family reserves (the Waltonʹs have donated a pathetically paltry 2% of their income to charity compare that to Bill Gates at 48% and Warren Buffettʹs 78%) ‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐‐ More at: http://walmartispureevil.blogspot.com/2005/11/what‐every‐american‐needs‐to‐know.html Walmart Unaccountable to Consumers’ Demands April 17th, 2012 A Statement From the Coalition Pressuring Walmart Not to Sell GE Sweet CornWashington, D.C. — In January, Food & Water Watch launched a campaign to pressure Walmart to refuse to sell Monsanto’s GE sweet corn. In coordination with CREDO Action, SumOfUs, Center for Food Safety, Center for Environmental Health, and Corporate Accountability International nearly 500,000 people signed petitions asking Walmart to refuse to stock Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) sweet corn, more than 150 events have taken place at Walmart stores across the country and over 8,500 people have called Walmart executives, store and regional managers, and Walmart’s customer service line. Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch: “Walmart says it cares about customers’ safety and satisfaction but in response to the nearly half a million concerned citizens who asked Walma rt not to sell this unlabeled, untested and potentially unsafe GE sweet corn it only offered the glib statement that it ‘does not specifically source foods that have been genetically modified’ and it ‘follows all federal and state regulations.’ “It is well‐known that the company routinely asks its suppliers to jump through rigorous hoops and agree to unfair terms in order to keep Walmart’s profit margins high. Walmart wields a lot of power over its suppliers and can easily get a commitment from them that their corn is not genetically engineered. If Walmart tells its suppliers that it does not want GE sweet corn, it would stop the product in its tracks. “While the non‐answer Walmart offers is misleading, it is clear in one definitive way. The company states that it ‘requires our suppliers to be in strict compliance with all labeling and disclosure laws,’ which, incidentally, don’t exist for GE foods. Therefore, it is clear that retailers like Walmart will continue to be unresponsive to consumers’ concerns around the risks of GE foods until the law forces them to be accountable.” Charles Margulis, Sustainable Food Program Coordinator at the Center for Environmental Health: “In the past few years, CEH has found high levels of lead in backpacks, jewelry, toys, and even honey purchased from Walmart. In each case, Walmart quickly required its supplier to clean up the problem. Walmart could easily be proactive and refuse this risky new GMO corn. Walmart shoppers should know that experimental corn is coming to the world’s largest retailer.” Heather Whitehead, True Food Network Director at the Center for Food Safety: “It’s unfortunate that Walmart has chosen to ignore its customers. Walmart claims to be responsive to customer concerns, yet they have ignored the pleas of half a million people to reject this new genetically engineered sweet corn. If companies like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and General Mills can inform their suppliers that they don’t want Monsanto’s GE sweet corn, Walmart could certainly do the same.” Taren Stinebrickner‐Kauffman, executive director and founder of SumOfUs: “Walmart’s decision to sell Monsanto’s new genetically modified corn is irresponsible and dangerous to its customers and to farmers around the country. Consumers have made clear that they don’t want to eat genetically modified corn that’s untested on humans — but Walmart is effectively giving them no choice since the new Monsanto corn won’t even be labeled when it’s sold to you.” SumOfUs.org is a global movement of consumers, investors, and workers all around the world, standing together to hold corporations accountable for their actions and forge a new, sustainable and just path for our global economy. CREDO Action has 2.7 million members across the U.S. who fight for progressive change and raise money for organizations like Food Democracy Now! and the Organic Consumers Association. Since 1985, CREDO and its membership have donated over $65 million to progressive causes. www.credoaction.org The Center for Food Safety is a national, non‐profit, membership organization founded in 1997 to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. The Center for Food Safety’s True Food Network is a national grassroots network with over 200,000 members where concerned citizens can voice their opinions about critical food safety issues, and advocate for a socially just, democratic, and sustainable food system. On the web at www.centerforfoodsafety.org and www.truefoodnow.org The Center for Environmental Health protects people from toxic chemicals and promotes business products and practices that are safe for public health and the environment. www.ceh.org Corporate Accountability International (formerly Infact) is a membership organization that has, for the last 35 years, successfully advanced campaigns protecting health, the environment and human rights. StopCorporateAbuse.org Contact: Anna Ghosh, Food & Water Watch 415‐293‐9905 Kaytee Reik, SumOfUs, 267‐334‐6984 Center for Environmental Health: Charles Margulis, 510‐697‐0615 Center for Food Safety: Heather Whitehead, 415‐826‐2770 Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.