WalMart chain is the world’s largest retailer, and has also been the largest class action lawsuit filed by more than 1.6 million employees and former employees tired of discrimination that relegates command posts.
Last year the chief executive of Wal-Mart corporation, H Lee Scott, won only salary, excluding bonds and investment ,gains 5.37 million, which equals about 50 thousand times that pays WalMart many workers in China who manufacture cheap products that have made these stores the favorite place for low-income buyers in the US and in 14 other countries where it operates.
Ron Galloway, producer of a documentary entitled Why WalMart works and why it angers some people Obviously, the company- advocate, argues that “Wal-Mart is one of the greatest benefactors for the poor that makes available to the poor items at low prices. The average client WalMart United States earns about $ 35,000 a year and saves $ 1,700 with shopping at WalMart. ”
In a sense, it’s true: the pace of US inflation has remained low-less than 3 percent for several years despite terrorist attacks, increases in oil prices in the international market, war and recession. And all this in large measure because there is a huge income products and items at low prices, manufactured in distant lands of lower wages, and sold at stores like WalMart, Sam’s Club subsidiary, K-Mart and Target.
WalMart is the second largest US corporation, after Exxon Mobil, and the successful commercial formula feeds not only low labor costs but moderation in profit margins.While a company like Microsoft, the software giant Bill Gates, operates with profit margins of 45 percent, WalMart has a profit is around 3.5 percent.
And it will not go bad: last year, with sales of 316 billion, Walmart had revenues of 11,200 million dollars. US WalMart operation accounts for almost 20 percent of all trade and consumer goods store, and is the largest seller of toys. 1,092 WalMart stores in the United States produces 67 percent of the sales of the corporation, and every week about 100 million people go to Walmart stores in this country.
Another 20 percent of sales come from subsidiary operations 2,700 stores in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Puerto Rico, UK, Japan, South Korea, and its 51 percent in Central American Retail Holding Company, which has more 360 supermarkets in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
More than 1.6 million women who work or have worked for Wal-Mart in the United States have joined the lawsuit filed in San Francisco for six workers who claim the company denied equal pay and promotion opportunities.
The facts support, at least in large part, to the claimants: women are 72 percent of all sales of Wal-Mart workers, but only a third of managers. Men occupy two-thirds of all management positions in stores and over 90 percent of all higher regional management positions. The average wages of women are about $ 5,000 less per year than men.
The lawsuit is the largest class action filed in US history, a country where the complaints are more popular than all sports practice. To certify them as valid cause for judgment, the applicants had to show evidence of his allegations, and actually obtained the computerized payroll wage WalMart through intelligent and diligent use of the procedural rules of disclosure. This rule stipulates that both parties to a case are entitled to claim more and more information and documents, and both are obliged to deliver in trial preparation.
For the complainant was a mammoth task that required the support of statistical and accounting, but because a judge accepted the basic claim that there is a pattern demonstrated that WALMAR pays women less than men performing the same tasks, and rarely also it promotes women with promotions and favors men.
In addition WalMart has become for unions in the paradigm of unbridled capitalism, the rush to demolish wages, benefits and workers’ rights, economic operation that lowers the cost of labor to a minimum, so that even a margin of 3.5 percent gain produced enormous fortunes.
WalMart also with its mammoth presence that absorbs customers with their low prices, has had a fatal impact on retailing in many cities where it has opened the doors of their local giant, architectural eyesores or temples of utilitarian architecture, and cheap, of course.
In the United States, where health insurance obtained through the employer is vital and where more than 45 million people lack health insurance, WalMart provides this benefit less than half its million employees. The labor law stipulates that considers full-time employee, and therefore entitled to health insurance benefits and paid leave, people who work more than 32 hours per week.WalMart maintains an army of employees who work less than 32 hours a week each, and thus health insurance coverage both as paid holidays is saved.
That means that in cities and states where Wal-Mart operates, the medical expenses of their workers paid low wages and without health insurance, are distributed to hospitals and community clinics subsidized with taxes.WalMart employees listed at the top of each list of members of the Medicaid program, subsidized by the federal government, at least 16 states, which costs taxpayers billions of dollars each year. The AFL-CIO has been estimated that each year taxpayers pay more than $ 420,000 in public assistance programs for every Walmart store with more than 200 employees because these workers can not afford the medical bills and feeding their children.
Full-time employees of WalMart, mostly perceive basic wages that leave any family of four below the poverty line.According to the trade union, “there have been hundreds of thousands of cases of allegations that WalMart has forced thousands of workers to work” without a clock. ‘”
WalMart recently agreed to pay $ 135,540 to resolve a federal lawsuit under which violated the laws on child labor when he used to adolescents, to manage hazardous equipment such as chain saws and conveyor. Between 1998 and 2003 there have been more than 300 complaints of unfair labor practices that resulted in hundreds of federal lawsuits against WalMart.
Of course, WalMart does everything possible so that their workers from organizing. In 2005 it closed a store in Quebec (Canada) before allowing negotiate a contract with gremialmente organized workers. Not a single store across America have organized employees union.
Ironies of life: this year the Federation of All-China managed to WalMart recognize the unionization of its workers in at least 16 of the 60 Wal-Mart stores in that country.
Ironic because this happens in a country where the dictatorship, said communist, keeps a tight control over social organizations such as trade unions. So far only 26 percent of the 150 000 foreign companies in China have allowed the existence of unions, which represent some 4.3 million workers.
Perhaps juice squeezing WalMart Chinese bureaucrats, not only permits operations and import and export procedures, but now with the unionization of workers WalMart, remains anyway acceptable to the great mother of all globalizers.
WalMart is the largest single importer of foreign products in the United States and its largest trading partner is China. WalMart trade with China accounts for almost 10 percent of the US trade deficit with that country, which is in turn a quarter of all US trade deficit, an imbalance that continues to grow as consumers continue to use the imported and cheap.
This year also accounts WalMart had two components which had not been seen in decades. First half-year stagnation of earnings. Not that the firm lost money in any way, but that the pace of earnings growth slowed. In an economy of financial speculation, when a company of this type does not give the expected profit margin shareholders, they disappointed investors sell their roles and will be juicier investments. That’s scary for corporations.
And then in the beginning of the consumer frenzy passes for “holidays this year” Right, WalMart had a slight drop in sales volume. That faint of customers responded to a stumble marketing and economic impact which has contributed WalMart.
Walmart stores are rectangular buildings in the United States, ranging from 3000 to 21 thousand square meters, with shelves and stacking in kilometers items. The typical clientele WalMart has been the population with incomes below the national average. More than a fifth of Walmart customers have no bank account, that is twice the national average.
A paradox: although the typical clientele of WalMart in the US is the sector of the population most battered by two decades of ultraconservative Reagan libremercadismo, 76 percent of voters who in 2004 attended those stores voted for George W Bush.
Somehow handlers image and marketing professionals convinced that WalMart would become more attractive to six demographic groups that usually do not go to these stores: blacks, more affluent, adults who are left alone after that their children go to college, Hispanics, suburbanites with higher incomes, and rural residents.
So since August began a remodeling of many local WalMart, with wider aisles, more lighting, and the supply of clothing and furniture more “fashionable”. WalMart also appeared in more expensive electronics, such as flat screen televisions, large, expensive video and audio equipment, exercise machines at home and kitchen appliances.
The problem is that came the “shopping season” without a substantial contingent, rich blacks, Hispanics or suburban residents come out to WalMart, while traditional customers passed, looked the “most disti” offers and could not buy them.
And this is where the second factor came: since the early 1970s in the United States began a process of estrangement between the different levels of income. The rich are getting richer, the poor are becoming poorer and more, and the middle class is slowly declining in purchasing power. This movement accelerated in the eighties with the policies of Ronald Reagan, he slowed but did not stop during the boom of the nineties with Bill Clinton, and accelerated with a vengeance since George W Bush came to the White House.
WalMart has contributed to the phenomenon: its basic practice is paying low wages, buying cheap and selling products “to the masses”. But if the masses no longer have to buy even cheap, no slap to the more fortunate than replace traditional clientele.
January 3, 2007