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Posts Tagged ‘walmart’

Walmart, Work and Value

Walmart protest Iowa City

Walmart Protest Iowa City

The consensus in social media was Walmart’s substantial stock decline on Wednesday – in advance of lower earnings projections – couldn’t have happened to a better group of jerks.

The jerks are the five individuals and groups who together own half of outstanding Walmart stock – the Walton family.

When people talk about re-distributing wealth, in part, they mean taking it from the Waltons, even though it was not just members of the one percent that got hit as Walmart stock is part of many portfolios owned by small investors and retirement funds.

The $14.7 billion valuation loss came after the CEO Doug McMillon briefed a group of financial analysts that earnings would decline sharply between now and 2018 because of a substantial investment in human resources which includes employee training, raising the average wage to $10 per hour, and adding more middle managers to improve the customer experience. The company also plans a significant investment in technology to be more competitive in e-commerce.

That Walmart would point to their February decision to raise the wage of its associates as a contributing cause of the lower earnings projection was called out by union members.

“Walmart should be ashamed for trying to blame its failures on the so-called wage increases. The truth is that hard-working Walmart employees all across the country began seeing their hours cut soon after the new wages were announced,” said Jess Levin, a spokesperson for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

It’s a fools game for unions to use Walmart as a proxy argument for the need for union representation, something that should stand on its own merits. The discussion about wages and needs of low income workers is not about wages. It is more about valuing work in our society. Whatever one thinks of the pay and benefits at Walmart, they provide jobs – more than 2.2 million of them globally.

A complicating factor is 260 million people per week shop at Walmart globally. The average U.S. Walmart shopper is a white, 50-year-old female with an average household income of $53,125. Walmart is a mainstay of an economic system where people rely on low prices as wages have been stagnant.

At the same time Walmart’s stock value declined, some view it as a buying opportunity. On whatever rocky shoals the company finds itself, the fact remains that as a mature business four percent of the global population shops there every week. It isn’t going anywhere. The Waltons’ stake seems likely to rise in value again, and there is no serious activity underway to take anything from the Waltons.

Walmart is a target because it is the largest private employer in the U.S. Fairly or not, the company is used as a proxy for what’s wrong in our economic system. Focusing attention on Walmart is a diversion from what should be our target. It has less to do with Wall Street and everything to do with valuing work people do everyday with low or non-existent pay.

As long as we complain about Walmart and fail to take action to respect workers, the Waltons will be fine, and the rest of us no better than we were before they rose to the one percent.

It’s Not About Minimum Wage

Walmart protest Iowa City

Walmart protest Iowa City

Two bits of news related to minimum wage emerged last week, and neither of them represents a solution for low wage workers.

The Iowa Legislature advanced Senate Study Bill 1151 from a subcommittee to increase the minimum wage to $8.75 per hour by July 2016, with a $0.75 increase July 1 and another $0.75 a year later. The bill is expected to be debated this week by the full Senate Labor and Business Relations Committee. Rod Boshart covered the story for the Cedar Rapids Gazette here. He indicated there is bipartisan support for increasing the minimum wage in both legislative chambers.

On Thursday, Doug McMillon, president and CEO, Walmart, announced a detailed plan to increase wages for its associates. Notably, current employees will receive at least $9 per hour beginning in April, with positions expected to pay at least $10 per hour beginning next year.

“Today, we’re announcing a package of changes in Walmart U.S. that will kick off a new approach to our jobs,” McMillon said in a letter to employees. “We’re pursuing comprehensive changes to our hiring, training, compensation, and scheduling programs, as well as to our store structure, and these changes will be sustainable over the long term.”

As Vauhini Vara pointed out in her Feb. 20 New Yorker article, “working at Walmart has long been a kind of proxy, in conversations about labor practices, for low-wage toil.”

“Such conversations have received more attention in the past couple of years, partly because they speak to a problem—stagnant wages—that has been acknowledged, even by conservative economists and policymakers, as a serious one,” Vara wrote. “When the recession ended, the unemployment rate began falling to pre-recession levels, and economists predicted that a tighter supply of workers would soon send wages up, too, as has historically happened. But, puzzlingly to some observers, that didn’t happen.”

Walmart, like any business, realizes the value of associates, and adjusted its pay and benefits when it had to.

While in Des Moines last week, I spotted Mike Owen and David Osterberg of the Iowa Policy Project at the capitol. They were working on the wage issue according to Owen.

The Iowa Policy Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 2001 to produce research and analysis to engage Iowans in state policy decisions, according to their web site. One of their topics is minimum wage.

IPP noted the Iowa minimum wage increased to its current $7.25 level on Jan. 1, 2008 in a February position summary. They pointed out that while Iowa was once a leader in minimum wage, it is now a laggard.

$8.75 would be something, but it is not enough.

“Minimum wage doesn’t come close to supporting a family’s basic needs budget at Iowa’s current cost of living,” said the IPP report.

Walmart’s $10 per hour is better but doesn’t get families there either.

What’s missing from this discussion is that few minimum wage earners support a family alone. According to IPP, minimum wage earners contribute 46 percent of their family’s income on average. Which begs the question, how do low-wage earners get by?

We can’t be distracted by the two minimum wage rate developments.

Any low-wage earner today knows there are plenty of opportunities to earn $9 per hour or more if one can do the work. The minimum wage has not been the problem for a long time as companies pay more to attract a viable workforce. Walmart is a large employer and receives a lot of attention. My progressive friends and I debate whether Walmart is or isn’t the problem, and I land closer to Vara—they are a proxy for another argument.

That argument has to do with the changing nature of our society. We have become a place where fairness and equal treatment has given way to pursuit of financial success at any cost. It includes business models that drive out costs, human costs particularly. Our society, through our neglect, and perhaps intent, has led us to a very harsh place. I recall Thomas Merton:

“If I had a message to my contemporaries it is surely this: Be anything you like, be madmen, drunks and bastards of every shape and form, but at all costs avoid one thing: success… If you are too obsessed with success, you will forget to live.”

All this talk about minimum wage has made us forget something important. Work is not wasted whether it’s paid or not. We must go on living and wages have little to do with that.

Too Poor To Shop At WalMart?

2026_curious-catAn internal memo that a Walmart VP sent out became public a couple weeks ago. In it a vice-president of Walmart made the observation that shoppers and purchases were off to the slowest year start in over seven years. Of course once that leaked out, there were scores of articles speculating on the cause and what it forebode.

And I will speculate also. My guess is that there is that some folks are finally voting with their feet and taking their business elsewhere. But I think a bigger share is that even the mythical ‘low price leader’ is too expensive for many at the bottom rung of our society. They no longer can afford Walmart and have now taken what little business they have elsewhere. Employers can be proud that they have literally starved their employees.

Branstad and Medicaid
Well another couple of Republican governors have decided that it is better to sign up for Medicaid expansion than to hurt their own people. Not Terry Branstad, though. He may claim he is a man of principle. My guess is that he is beholden to someone with some money or someone who will take care of him in his post-governor days. The chance to get a large amount of federal aid coming in to Iowa, to help those who do not have health insurance and at the same time creating thousands of jobs sounds very suspicious to Branstad.

Branstad is a person who has seen 18,000 jobs created in his state in 2 years and takes credit for 150,000. He is also a guy who takes 2 paychecks from Iowa, yet stands in the way of a little help, mostly from the federal government for one of us common mooks. I have always said most people do not pay attention to anything that doesn’t directly affect them. I propose Branstad as Exhibit A.

Is Medicaid Welfare?
My representative, Tom Sands, stands in full opposition to Medicaid Expansion. His objection is that it is welfare and he is opposed to welfare. Welfare is one of those code words that comes with a series of images attached to them. I am sure that your mind has already brought those pictures up – the Cadillac, the sitting in front of the TV collecting checks.

One of the main objectives for Medicaid Expansion is to cover workers in low wage jobs. Walmart is probably the biggest offender in this area. So I would ask Mr. Sands if he has an alternative for Walmart workers in particular. Walmart policy is to dump their workers onto the government medical workers as much as they can by giving them too few hours to qualify for company health care and paying way too little for an employee to buy their own health care.

Also, if Medicaid is welfare, was rural electrification? What about those businesses in Iowa that get research credits and actually not only do not pay taxes, but get millions back?

Be Careful What You Wish For
A little snow (and I do mean a little snow) and we start hearing all the “I hate snow” people sing a chorus of their old song. Let me caution them that 6 months from now when the temperature is 98 degrees in the shade and rain is nowhere in sight, they may miss the days of 30 degrees and a few clouds in the sky.

Well, Now we Are Sequestered
It amazes me that Republicans continue to find ways to hurt poor and average Americans. It is like they inherited a bag of tricks from the Inquisition. What doesn’t amaze me is that the main stream media which is owned 99% by the wealthy has very little bad to say about our new state of governing. The Democrats introduced a concept of planning in the 1930s. Plan for old age, put some money aside for disasters, even plan for such things as bank foreclosures and other human screw ups.

With Reagan, Bush and Bush, Republicans created this concept of lurching from one man made crisis to another. “Shock Doctrine” was how Naomi Klein stated their new way of doing business. Now we see that in a a democracy a minority so determined to wreck things for the majority can do so by misusing the rules of the democracy.

Lurching from crisis to crisis is a terrible way to run anything. But Republicans have come to the conclusion apparently they can’t run anything so the only power they have is to screw everything up and scare the citizens half to death. Thus they can come to power occasionally long enough to empty the treasury out to their buddies.

Congratulations To Marcus Branstad

On being named to the Natural Resources Board. Way to pick your parents.

Republican View: Obama Didn’t Win

Nope. Looks like that win Obama claims may be up to dispute. Seems he actually came in second to last in the presidential race. Even their man, Mitt Romney, came in a close second.

For 2013: No More Romney
I hope that there is one promise I can keep. I don’t want to write the name of the lyingest bastard ever to run for president even once more.

ALEC: Let’s Put The Pressure On
ALEC just had their winter meeting in Washington. We need to put pressure on those in the Iowa legislature who show feality to ALEC and not to Iowa. I believe we can start at the top with Gov. Branstad and SoS Matt (on the job training) Schultz.

Bain Dumping Clear Channel?
One of the worst things to come out of the Clinton presidency was the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This was the final nail in the structure of that media consolidation was built on. Clear Channel was able to take on more than 1200 radio stations at the height of their consolidation. But new media and bad management caused Clear Channel to shed some of their losers a few years back. Eventually, Bain Capital (yep the Vultures) bought CC trying to work their “magic.” Friday Clear Channel/Bain went through a huge layoff. My guess is this is yet another stop gap measure on their way to bankruptcy. Keep an eye out, there may be some cheap radio properties available next year.

Limbaugh Gets Some Credit
In the demise of Clear Channel, I believe Limbaugh gets some credit. Limbaugh actually works for CC subsidiary Premiere Networks. His loss of advertising has been one of the biggest reasons that CC is in huge trouble. Limbaugh is still getting his huge salary of an estimated $38 million per year. Maybe he should do what he tells unions to do and take a pay cut.

Speaking Of Demises
Not that these companies are going out of business, but restaurant chains that publically bucked the coming of Obamacare seem to be paying a price for their obstinance. Darden Restaurants (Red Lobster, Olive Garden) has apparently lost a chunk of business. It also looks like Papa John’s Pizza took a huge hit in the reputation column, also. Gee whiz, filthy rich owners, is it that hard to treat your employees decently? It never hurts to vote with your dollars.

Speaking of Treating Employees Well
Walmart and its subsidiary Sam’s Club, is notorious for its low wages and employees being forced to use Medicaid for its health care and food stamps to afford to eat. On the other end of the employer spectrum is Costco, which pays its employees well, offers a good health care plan and retirement. These contrasting styles of management have been studied over and over. In every instance I have seen, Costco kicks Sam’s Club to the curb. I am sure this is true in nearly every instance where the focus is on employee costs. When will American employers learn?

 December 7th

As I write this it is Dec. 7. This is of course a day that has much baggage. Most important is the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor. This is of course the final straw that pulled the US into World War 2. December 7th is also the launch date of Apollo 17 in 1972. This eventually became the final trip to the moon for America. Seems to me that without grand goals, America seems to have lost its way. As many others have said, we need an Apollo program type effort to restore America’s infrastructure to prepare for the future and to face the threat of climate change which will be the toughest foe man has ever faced.

What Iowans Should Know About Walmart, Medicaid and Branstad

One issue that was almost totally ignored in the recent Iowa legislative was Gov. Branstad’s vow to not accept expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Personally I thought that it should be a central issue, but trying to bring the voting public up on how this would affect Iowa was an effort in education that I doubt many candidates were willing to spend their precious time on. I mean that sincerely. When a candidate gets just a bit of time that a voter will actually spend paying attention to them, they need to hit them with the best pitch possible.

Many months ago Governor Branstad, after the Supreme Court said that the Medicaid section of the ACA was not mandatory, took it upon himself to reject any future expanded Medicaid money in the name of the state. My hope was that if enough legislators were elected who favored the Medicaid expansion they could pressure even a Branstad to change his position.

But that was not to be. My other thought is that the GOP in general feel that poor people must be punished for being poor and that those that have caused their poverty do not deserve punishment. Often these folks are rewarded by the state with tax breaks.

This is where we get to Walmart. In a bit of news the M$M (mainstream media, mostly corporate) most likely ignored, it was revealed that as one the nations largest takers of government handouts, Walmart’s low wages force its employees to seek government assistance especially food stamps and Medicaid which helps poor folks get some level of medical care.

Based on an average size store, a single Walmart costs about $420,000 in subsidies. From what I have heard, their hiring process includes instructions on how to sign up for government aid programs. How many other places of business puposely use government aid as part of their compensation package? If your knew a company was using your tax dollars as part of its compensation package wouldn’t you feel just a bit miffed? Yet they have been doing it for years and no one seems to care.

So Branstad doesn’t want to expand Medicaid in Iowa. Will this be directed at companies like Walmart who are obviously exploiting the system which was not set up to subsidize corporations, but to help individuals? I doubt it. Remember that the GOP in Iowa fought tooth and nail a few years ago to let Walmart keep a huge tax loophole that allows Walmart to pay little to no tax in Iowa. When Branstad rejects Medicaid, the Walmart employee will suffer, but not the corporation.

But there is still a law out there that hospitals must treat those that show up in their emergency rooms whether they can pay or not. So I expect in Iowa that will be the new Walmart health plan – go to the emergency room. But the emergency room is the most expensive form of health care and someone will be expected to pay. Currently that bill is paid with higher costs to medical premiums that most will be forced to buy or will be subsidized to buy under the ACA. Or in other words – you – in higher premiums. Walmart wins again.

What a great argument one more time for single payer healthcare. But until then, remember when you go into Walmart you have already given them a thousand dollars or so this year just because they are there. Hope you can save that much, but I really doubt you can. And that is only the surface of Walmart’s affect on your community.

Let me end with some words from the recently re-elected Alan Grayson, often called “the congressman with guts” on Walmart subsidies:

“The taxpayer pays for the earned income credit,” he said. “The taxpayer pays for Medicaid. The taxpayer pays for unemployment insurance when they cut hours down. And the taxpayer pays for other forms of public assistance like food stamps. I think the taxpayer is getting fed up of paying these things when, in fact, Walmart could give every employee its got, even the CEO, a 30 percent raise and still be profitable.”

“In state after state after state, Walmart employees represent the largest group of Medicaid recipients, the largest group of food stamp recipients, and taxpayers shouldn’t have to bear that burden,” Grayson said. “It should be Walmart. So, we’re going to take that burden and put it where it belongs: on Walmart.”


Is Branstad For Real?

Governor for Life Terry Branstad called the ACA “disastrous” and in the same breath said Iowans should strive to be the healthiest state in America. I am guessing he would also like the fastest car, without having to use any fuel.

In a similar vein, right here in the breadbasket of the world where we have some 15% suffering from what is now euphemistically refered to as “food insecurity,” Brandstad struck a blow for their freedom to starve to death by line-item vetoing aid to food banks. Like most republicans, Branstad is willing to fight for freedom to your death.

As a final slap, Branstad announced he would begin to pay 20% of his health insurance, in an effort to get other government workers to pay 20% also. Well, with his salary, pension as former president of Drake and pension as a former governor, Branstad probably brings in around $200,000 per year or about $16,000 per month. If he pays $200/ month as that 20% it is about 1% of his income. For a worker who makes @$30,000/ year, that same $200 is probably over 10% of take home pay – pay that has to cover housing, transportation etc. Geez, Terry, I think people will figure this one out.

Putting Children to Work.
Newt Gingrich said it was time to cut through the old ideas and put children to work at jobs such as janitor. i will go along with him on putting kids to work, but I don’t think janitor is the right venue. I think that Republican legislator is a better fit for children. Knowing the word “NO” is about the only major requirement, while hating most other human life except those who give you money is the other. Most kids, especially boys, can do this easily by age 12. Doubtful anyone would notice the switch. And like everything else, Republicans will pay their replacements little while telling them what a great “opportunity” they are getting.

Bill Maher gives us an example from his HBO show.

Un Happy 50th Birthday to You, Walmart!
What can one say about Walmart. Over 50 years we have watched it grow from a small regional chain to the dominant retailer in the world. We have watched as it once proudly sold American made products, to the behemoth that sells little if anything made in America, thus hastening the off shoring of American jobs. The chain that drove more Ma and Pa stores out of business than any other. The Walton heirs by themselves control more wealth than the lowest 30% of Americans (that’s around 100,000,000 people, folks).

No Global Warming to see here – move along.
When did Iow move south? I know it can’t be global warming, because my Republican leadership tells me so. And it certainly isn’t caused by burning fossil fuels. I have often wondered if Venus was quite earth like before Republicans up there convinced the population that the heat and unbearable pressures were not caused by burning fossil fuels.

Does anyone else remember that almost 9 years ago Bushco was working like hell to bury a Department of Defense report that Climate Change would destroy us? Just as a reminder here is the story.

Only nine years ago, summer was almost tolerable.

As many of you know, Costco has opened in Coralville. My understanding is that Costco is a Democratic donor when they donate. I also understand that they pay their employees decently and treat them with respect. In other words, things I want to support. We seldom go into Target. We very occasionally shop Walmart, but the alternatives are not much better. So, Costco seems to be a desirable alternative. You do vote with your dollars.

If what I hear about Costco is true, they will get some votes from us.

Sunday Funday – WalMart is 50!

Say what you want about Walmart, I doubt if any of your or my naysaying will have much effect on them. We really haven’t slowed them down much, nor have they changed even one policy. I have a continuing nightmare that a Republican will be elected and the economy will finally crash beyond repair.

The only place left to work will be Walmart or Monsanto and my choice is to ignore any conscience I have and take a job with one of them. So 50 years on, what do you know about Walmart?

1) Many municipalities look to Walmart coming in to create jobs. What is the effect of a Walmart on the job market in the US?
a) For every job lost, 2 are gained
b) for every 2 jobs gained, 2.8 are lost
c) In toto, Walmart has no effect on total jobs
d) For every job gained 3 are lost.

2) Sam Walton opened his first discount store in what city?
a) Bentonville, Arkansas
b) Rogers, Arkansas
c) Harrison, Arkansas
d) Springfield, Missouri

3) Women account for 67% of Walmart hourly employees. What percent of Walmart management are women?
a) 50%
b) 67%
c) 15%
d) 5%

4) As an individual employer, Walmart is third in the world behind what two other entities?
a) The US Defense Department and the Chinese Army.
b) Exxon-Mobil and the US Defense Department
c) The US Department od Health and Human Services and the Russian Army
d) The Us Post Office and The US Department of Defense

5) The six Walton heirs have more net worth than what percent of the bottom of the Americans?
a) 10%
b) 20%
C) 30%
D) 40%

6) Due to low wages and benefits, Walmart employees cost US taxpayers how much per year? (eg for health care, food stamps)
a) $10 billion
b) $7.5 billion
c) $3 billion
d) $1.5 billion

7) Which former presidential candidate was once on Walmart’s board of directors?
a) Newt Gingrich
b) Hillary Clinton
c) Mike Huckabee
d) Rick Perry

8) Walmart is virulently anti-union. One store in Canada was unionized. What was the result of this unionization?
a) the store was closed a couple months later
b) Walmart sued and the union was thrown out by the Canadian Supreme Court
c) the store remains the only unionized store in the chain
d) the union eventually dissolved and the store remains open and non-union.

9) Germany is a major union country. What is Walmart’s status currently in Germany?
a) Walmart must pay a stipend to operate in Germany
b) Walmart is unionized in Germany
c) Walmart operates both unionized and non-unionized stores in Germany
d) Walmart left Germany many years ago over union issues among others.

10) Approximately what is the annual sales for Walmart?
a) $100 billion
b) $450 billion
c) $750 billion
d) $1 trillion

Makes me think of that old joke from Cedar Rapids. When a group of citizens went to the mayor to complain about the smell, he opened the window,

sniffed and said, “It smells like money to me, boys.” We learn toaccept certain things if the price is right.
Here come the answers – today’s price $4.98!

1) b) for every 2 Walmart jobs, the US loses 2.8 jobs.

2) b) Rogers, Arkansas

3) c) 15% – and they on average earn less than their counterparts

4) a) the US DoD (3.2 million) and the Chinese Army (2.3 million) Walmart (2.2 million)

5) c) 30% (closing in on 100,000,000 people)

6) d) $1.5 billion

7) b) Hillary Clinton

8) a) the store was closed – what did you expect? The Canadian Supreme Court eventually upheld Walmart’s right to close their store, even for reasons of unionizing

9) d) Walmart left Germany many years ago. Again, what did you expect.

10) b) $444 billion was the latest figure I could find.

Much of this information was found either on or