Walmart: the world's 3rd largest company. SJ Dodgson MJoTA 2016 v10n1 p0210
Labor Day 2015 was hot, even early in the morning when I caught the train from New Jersey to Center City Philadelphia, to walk first east and then south along the Delaware River to the Sheet Metal Workers Training Center.
When I was active in the National Writers Union, from 2000 to 2003, our Labor Day rallies and marches were huge; we met in JFK Boulevard and walked down the Parkway to the Philadelphia Art Museum. In the years since, Philadelphia City Council decided that the day dedicated to labor, dedicated to working folks, did not merit the march across the heart of the city. They banished the working folks to as far away as they could be while still in Philadelphia, and still in Pennsylvania. The square mile of the Parkway was closed for a private concert. An expensive concert. I imagine they made a lot of money.
I did not know what I was looking for as I watched a procession of motorbikes, marching bands, folks with banners, political candidates. But then I saw it. A man holding a banner demanding a minimum wage of $15 an hour at Walmart. Not a minimum wage phased in over 8 years with generous tax credits for employers. A minimum living wage. Immediately. I chatted with him, and later on, at Penn's Landing, during the wonderful Labor Day concert, with Osborne Hart, who was running for mayor of Philadelphia in Nov 2015. He lost.
Mr Hart and his colleagues are all university-educated, well traveled (the man with the sign had been in the Peace Corps; Mr Hart lived for a time in Germany), and their hands and bodies follow their words. They are all working for Walmart, as stockers, managers, cashiers. And trying to convince their workers to unionize to demand a decent living wage, and that indentured servitude must not be an option. Working for less than $8 or even $9 an hour is indentured servitude in Philadelphia. This is not a living wage.
I am astounded at the arguments of folks who are opposed to having a legally set minimum wage. One argument is that if Walmart had to pay a living wage, it would go out of business, and unemployment would be huge. Because Walmart is the biggest private company in the United States. The third biggest company in the world (only US military and Chinese military are bigger). Personally, I would be thrilled if the 3 Walmart stores in Camden County, New Jersey, failed. Because then we could see a return of living wage jobs, a return of small business owners forced out when Walmart stormed in and demanded tax credits and huge local investments in roads. And all the money poured into food stamps and Medicaid for Walmart Employees could be used for example, for education.
We have a Walmart in my neighboring town of Audubon. When they moved in, the local town paid $2 million to fix the roads, razed a delightful shopping center, and now we have a huge parking lot with Walmart, which has outside a bin for donating canned goods to feed Walmart employees. In the wake of Walmart came widespread foreclosures, and house prices have dropped. Which means folks who bought a house in the area 10 years ago are looking at losses of 20 to 50% on the value of their houses.
Camden County, New Jersey is poorer since Walmart moved in. Jobs are fewer, houses are worth less, even as real estate taxes and the costs of maintaining houses have risen.
What amazes me is how much folks love to shop at Walmart. For a few years, I did too, until I realized that the prices were not lower than anywhere else, and the quality was horrible. The last time I went to Nigeria I bought 2 suitcases at Walmart. They were not inexpensive, and they both collapsed on the way to the Nigerian Embassy, and I had to buy new ones. Which 4 years later are holding up well.
Buy from small businesses, or ethical businesses. Only buy from businesses that pay over the minimum wage. Like Aldi. In NJ the minimum wage is over $8 an hour. Aldi pays a minimum of $11.25. I like that.
Walmart is the Trojan horse of the United States. It came to us offering light and life and sunshine, if only we would let it in. Once in, it has caused destruction of small businesses and an influx of shoddy goods. Walmart has its own planes, its own ships. Of course it does. It is the 3rd biggest company in the world, behind the US military and the Chinese military.