"While its workforce has one of the best productivity records of any US corporation, it has kept the compensation of its rank-and-file workers at or barely above the poverty line. As of last spring, the average pay of a sales clerk at Wal-Mart was $8.50 an hour, or about $14,000 a year, $1,000 below the government's definition of the poverty level for a family of three. Despite the implied claims of Wal-Mart's current TV advertising campaign, fewer than half— between 41 and 46 percent—of Wal-Mart employees can afford even the least-expensive health care benefits offered by the company. To keep the growth of productivity and real wages far apart, Wal-Mart has reached back beyond the New Deal to the harsh, abrasive capitalism of the 1920s."
Simon Head reviews books about Wal-Mart in the Dec. 16 issue of The New York Review of Books.
This part blows my mind:
"One of the most telling of all the criticisms of Wal-Mart is to be found in a February 2004 report by the Democratic Staff of the House Education and Workforce Committee. In analyzing Wal-Mart's success in holding employee compensation at low levels, the report assesses the costs to US taxpayers of employees who are so badly paid that they qualify for government assistance even under the less than generous rules of the federal welfare system. For a two-hundred-employee Wal-Mart store, the government is spending $108,000 a year for children's health care; $125,000 a year in tax credits and deductions for low-income families; and $42,000 a year in housing assistance. The report estimates that a two-hundred-employee Wal-Mart store costs federal taxpayers $420,000 a year, or about $2,103 per Wal-Mart employee. That translates into a total annual welfare bill of $2.5 billion for Wal-Mart's 1.2 million US employees.
"Wal-Mart is also a burden on state governments. According to a study by the Institute for Labor and Employment at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2003 California taxpayers subsidized $20.5 million worth of medical care for Wal-Mart employees. In Georgia ten thousand children of Wal-Mart employees were enrolled in the state's program for needy children in 2003, with one in four Wal-Mart employees having a child in the program. "