by Jamison Maeda
Walmart, the world’s third highest revenue grossing corporation, is well known for both its low prices and Dickens-Era low wages. Though Walmart earns over $15 billion USD per year in pure profit, 80% of its workforce relies on food stamps and other social welfare programs. In many US states, Walmart employees are the top recipients of government funded medical care. It is estimated that the employees of just one Walmart Super Store could be consuming over $900,000 USD in government aid per year.
However, though the American taxpayer has to subsidize the salaries of low income Walmart employees, Walmart executives do quite well. CEO, Mike Duke makes more money in an hour than many of his employees make in a year. In 2011 he received a compensation package of more than $18 million USD and nearly $21 million in 2012.
Besides its cost saving strategy of paying infamously low wages, Walmart also saves money by not properly disposing of poisonous chemicals. In May of this year, Walmart pled guilty to improperly handling, transporting and disposing of hazardous materials in California.
Ignacia S. Moreno, the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division stated that “Wal-Mart put the public and the environment at risk and gained an unfair economic advantage over other companies,” who spend money on the safe handling and disposing of dangerous chemicals. Walmart agreed to pay $81.6 million USD in fines but this is a small penalty considering last year Wal-Mart earned $128 billion USD in revenue.
If Walmart is truly a burden on taxpayer funded social programs and is a risk to human health and the environment, who is still shopping there?
The “Walmart Mom” demographic emerged in the media during the last American presidential election. The Walmart Mom is claimed to account for about 15% of the American electorate and is defined as a mother of at least one child under the age of 18, who shops at Walmart at least once a month. She is usually living paycheck to paycheck and is overwhelmingly more concerned with putting food on the table than social or environmental issues. She may not be considering the long term effects of supporting Walmart because she is focused on lower prices and the convenience of being able to buy groceries, clothing, and snow tires all in one store.