recession in the past seventy years has seen jobs rebound
within 31 months. That is until the last one. 2.8 million
high-paying manufacturing jobs have been lost during the
Bush administration and high-tech opportunities are a faint
memory from the last century. Technology has increased productivity
but decreased the need for actual human labor. The jobs
that are being created today tend to be disproportionately
low-wage retail jobs. Because of its gargantuan stature
Wal-mart has come to symbolize the problem.
is the largest corporation in the world and the second largest
employer in America after the federal government. With $250
billion in sales and 15% annual growth, the retail giant
has set itself a goal of becoming the first trillion-dollar
company within the next decade. It has managed to establish
almost 5,000 stores in all 50 states and is spreading its
tentacles around the globe. The giant retailer represents
7.5¢ of every dollar spent in the country and accounts
for 2% of the gross domestic product. Wal-marts owners
consist of five of the ten richest people in the world.
The CEO collects $11.5 million, roughly the equivalent of
765 store employees.
vast wealth of the Wal-mart owners and upper management
are in stark contrast to the majority of its 1.7 million-member
workforce. Wages are far below the national average and
a full third of its employees arent covered by healthcare.
Wal-mart has a history of being ferociously anti-union,
going so far as to actually shut down stores that begin
hinting at collective bargaining. One of the duties of the
greeters at the front door is to report the presence of
union representatives to management. 25 states have wage
theft motions pending against the behemoth for forcing
retail staff to work off the clock. Its also not uncommon
for the employees to be locked in the store at night and
have to humiliate themselves by asking permission to leave.
The largest class action lawsuit on record has been filed
against Wal-mart by 1.6 million current and former female
employees for wage disparity and systemic discrimination
in hiring and promotions. The leviathan also has a history
of dismissing staff when theyve been around long enough
to start approaching $10 an hour.
suffer when the retail giant comes to town. One in every
three new supercenters faces some sort of community opposition.
Because of predatory pricing Wal-mart repeatedly guts small
town America. Tax bases usually go down after it sets up
shop and begins forcing the mom and pops out of business.
For every 2 Wal-mart jobs created 3 others are lost. The
effects on our economy are immeasurable. The tireless mission
to constantly drive down prices has put a stranglehold on
the companies 10,000 suppliers who are now trapped in a
system with no alternative to compliance. In 1995 50% of
Wal-mart merchandise was manufactured in the U.S. but today
that number has dropped to 6%. Indirect job loss is created
when suppliers have to move their operations overseas to
stay within the razor-thin profit margins set up by their
2001 Wal-mart moved its worldwide purchasing headquarters
to China. This was a pragmatic move as it is the worlds
largest importer of Chinese goods. This goes a long way
toward explaining Americas $631 billion trade deficit
with East Asias fastest -growing economy. For example
62% of the shoes and 83% of toys and sporting goods on American
shelves are made in China. Wal-mart and companies like it
find these products so attractive simply because of the
low price. With average wages hovering around 40¢ an
hour, one-sixth that of Mexico, China will always be able
to undersell their U.S. counterparts. Until the Chinese
workers demand a reasonable wage the Wal-marts of the world
will continue to take advantage of a system that exploits
slave and child labor.
economists agree that open markets, free trade and lack
of government interference are the keys to a strong economy.
But what happens when one company becomes so powerful that
it can distort the system? Wal-marts size, predatory
pricing and lack of real competition have made it as destructive
as a meddling government. In the economists' model companies
compete against each other to lower prices and produce better
products. Wal-mart has changed the rules. The free market
no longer applies if suppliers have nowhere to turn but
towards the belly of the beast, nowhere to market their
goods beyond Wal-mart.