Beware Consumers Walmart is undoubtedly the largest global retailer, employing more people than any army. The mega-store’s presence is known all around the world, with a reach stretching from the United States to China. According to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Walmart is the largest employer in the United States, just after the Federal government, with over 925,000 employees.
In addition, every year they hire 550,000 more employees, which is three times the number of people the U.S. military recruits every year. Even with such a huge army of employees, Walmart is known for some major problematic business practices—ones about which consumers should be made aware; ones that might motivate them to refrain from shopping at Walmart stores. They relate to their treatment of their workers in America; their use of sweatshops and child labor; and the low quality of their products.
Growing up, my mother worked for Walmart for the majority of my childhood. She had to work the night shift because it provided the higher rate of pay she needed to care for her five children. After having worked for Walmart for over ten years, my mother was still unable to secure any type of insurance coverage for our family. Reporting on Walmart’s employee compensation practices, PBS noted, “This pay scale places employees with families below the poverty line, with the majority of employees’ children qualifying for free lunch at school”.
Another reason why it is hard for Walmart’s American employees to make ends meet is their inability to unionize in order to improve benefit packages, hourly pay and basic labor rights. PBS documented that new employees are oriented by being required to watch videotapes explaining the benefits of being an anti-union company.
The videos explain an open door policy that would allow them to take their complaints beyond their supervisors to higher management. Without an advocacy group fighting for the workers’ rights, they are left without a voice. When the United Food and Commercial Workers tried to organize workers across the country to rally together for a change in the system, Walmart recruited labor experts for “coaching sessions” with the personnel who support unionization. Many employees filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board, stating that these meetings were in fact intimidation sessions. Consumers would be wise to give a higher value to the well-being of our communities and our overall economy than to the small individual savings Walmart offers its customers.
Consumers may get a discount at the cash register but their tax dollars are going toward providing government assistance programs like free and reduced lunch and public health clinics being utilized by poorly-paid Walmart employees and their families. In the end, we all pay for Walmart’s low prices before and after the shopping experience ends. Not only does Walmart fail to provide their American employees with the proper labor conditions and means by which to provide for their families, but the roots of their global operation–their factory workers—are being denied adequate treatment and pay as well.
The non-profit Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights (formerly known as the National Labor Committee) conducted a study in 2007 highlighting conditions at the Guangzhou Huanya Gift company—an ornament maker and Walmart supplier in China that employs 8,000 workers. The study found that some employees had been paid as little as 26 cents an hour–half the legal minimum wage in China. Additionally, employees in the spray paint department were found to have handled potentially dangerous chemicals with little or no protection, thus directly putting workers lives at risk. PBS noted that out of all Walmart’s goods, “85 percent of the stores’ items are made overseas, often in Third World sweatshops (Hutchinson)”.
There have also been reports of child labor practices in Bangladesh in sweatshops that make products for Walmart and other well-known national brands. According to the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights, over 200 children have been beaten, slapped and worked to the point of falling down from exhaustion. Some children are eleven years of age and younger and are worked on average twelve to fourteen hours per day for a meager six and a half cents per hour.
These children are using their fingers and ashes to brush their teeth because they cannot afford to purchase even the most basic necessities required to be healthy individuals. Under no circumstances should a child be forced to work in a factory. Purchasing goods at Walmart means that American consumers are directly contributing to the poor living conditions of workers and innocent children all around the world.
The quality and safety of the countless products that are being manufactured at these sweatshops is also another major concern consumers should be aware of when purchasing anything at Walmart., t. Recently reported in a CBS news report,”Cadmium in children’s jewelry became a public concern in January when the AP published the results of an investigation that showed items at Walmart’s and other large chains were as much as 91 percent of the toxic metal by weight.”(CBS News)
This cheap children’s jewelry priced around the six dollar amount range, was of the Miley Cyrus brand. One can only imagine if this small piece of jewelry was found to be toxic to the consumer, then the people who are making this product in an unsafe, poorly compensated sweatshops are directly in contact with this metal on a regular basis.
Looking at this serious health concern from the consumer’s point of view, it would be more health conscience when purchasing any product, it might end up taking lives or sending people to the hospital. Walmart’s prices are tempting, they claim to save you money. This comes with the cost of the livelihood and health of people all around the world. In other words, save money now, then at the end of the day people end up paying an increase in medical bills, public assistance programs and other tax based funded programs.
“Children Found Sewing Clothing For Walmart, Hanes & Other U.S. & European Companies – n National Labor Committee.” Harvard Law School. National Labor Committee, Web. 30 Apr 2013. . . “PBS – STORE WARS: Walmart Business
Practices.” PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. 1995. Web. 30 Apr 2013. .”Senator Says Walmart Sells Products From Sweatshops – New York Times.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. NYTimes, 13 Dec 2007. Web. 30 Apr 2013. . “Walmart’s Miley Cyrus Jewelery Contains Cadmium.” CBS News. 15 Jun 2010. Web. 30 Apr 2013. < http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-204_162-6499679.html>.
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