Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Wal-Martyrs

This holiday season, it's important thatwe all do our part to strengthen American society by not supporting organizations that seem hellbent on destroying it---

Like Wal-Mart, the corporate giant that made $121.8 billion in profit last year, yet manages to pay employees so little and provide so little in the way of benefits that new hires are routinely coached on the ins and outs of applying for public assistance.

Remember the Tenncare cuts of 2005? That same year, Tennesseans paid over $44 million to cover the healthcare costs of 10,000 Wal-Mart employees and their 3,000 dependants--- Nearly a quarter of their Tennessee workforce of 41,000.

Sadly, that percentage of Wal-Mart employees not covered by their plans at work is actually relatively low--- Nationally, 46% of Wal-Mart employees aren't covered by the company plan, which provides spartan benefits for high premiums.

Don't even try to say that a company cannot be a responsible corporate citizen and manage to come out ahead--- CostCo manages to cover 80% of employees with a comprehensive health plan that employees can afford to pay the premiums on. Surely, Wal-Mart can manage to use the same purchasing clout they use with Chinese manufacturers, can they not?

And the worst part--- We subsidize it. The first thing that happens when Wal-Mart is looking to open a new store is they shop around for a massive tax abatement. Politicians eager to say "I brought 300 new jobs to town" sign on all too readily without ever taking note of how much those jobs actually cost the community. All too often, there's a wake of businesses closing whenever a new Wal-Mart opens, so the job "gains" are a break even at best--- Worse when one considers that the jobs disappearing with those businesses typically pay a better wage and carry benefit plans that aren't covered by taxpayers.

The problems they create carry into the future as well. A store manager asked a question on "Lee's Garage", a news site maintained by CEO Lee Scott, about retirement plans. Scott told him that if he wanted a company that would put money into a retirement plan, he should "look for another company where you can do those things".

And all of this is without even examining Wal-Mart's role in the sheer devastation of the manufacturing sector in this nation.

Corporate responsibility needs to be one of the priorities of the new Congress preparing to take office. When it's handled on a municipal or county level, Wal-Mart simply moves down the street to unincorporated areas and operates the same way. Handle it on a state level, and the company will simply close operations and move to a state more desperate and less willing to read the fine print.

It needs to be handled on a federal level, because there should be no place for Wal-Mart to retreat to.

But for now, the answer is even easier--- Just shop someplace else.

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