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View Diary: Walmart: America's real 'Welfare Queen' (126 comments)

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  •  Historian Nelson Lichenstein wrote a great book (14+ / 0-)

    entitled, The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business  .  It is an excellent history of the Walton way.

    The book has an excellent vignette about Sam Walton and the minimum wage during the JFK & LBJ administrations.

    From a Harold Meyerson review in the American Prospect:

    The story isn't part of the official Wal-Mart creation epic, but it tells us almost all we need to know about the company's approach to the interests of its employees and the laws of the nation. Around the time that the young Sam Walton opened his first stores, John Kennedy redeemed a presidential campaign promise by persuading Congress to extend the minimum wage to retail workers, who had until then not been covered by the law. Congress granted an exclusion, however, to small businesses with annual sales beneath $1 million -- a figure that in 1965 it lowered to $250,000.

    Walton was furious. The mechanization of agriculture had finally reached the backwaters of the Ozark Plateau, where he was opening one store after another. The men and women who had formerly worked on small farms suddenly found themselves redundant, and he could scoop them up for a song, as little as 50 cents an hour. Now the goddamn federal government was telling him he had to pay his workers the $1.15 hourly minimum. Walton's response was to divide up his stores into individual companies whose revenues didn't exceed the $250,000 threshold. Eventually, though, a federal court ruled that this was simply a scheme to avoid paying the minimum wage, and he was ordered to pay his workers the accumulated sums he owed them, plus a double-time penalty thrown in for good measure.

    Wal-Mart cut the checks, but Walton also summoned the employees at a major cluster of his stores to a meeting. "I'll fire anyone who cashes the check," he told them.

    Besides its Dickensian shock value, this story -- told by Nelson Lichtenstein in his new book about Wal-Mart -- points to a phenomenon of wider significance. The company that was willing to break the law to avoid paying the minimum wage is now the largest private-sector employer in the nation and the world, with 1.4 million employees in the United States and 2 million overall, more than 6,000 stores, and revenues that exceed those of Target, Home Depot, Sears, Kmart, Safeway, and Kroger -- combined. By virtue of its size and its mastery of logistics, Wal-Mart is able to demand low prices from its thousands of suppliers and thus inflict low wages on their employees. Its low prices have also forced reductions in wages and benefits at the unionized supermarkets with which it threatens to compete.

    It's in their corporate DNA, they can't escape their exploitive Southern roots.  Of course, if the Feds actually enforced anti-trust laws like they did back in the days when A & P was the behemoth, the problem would be a whole lot smaller.

    "The working class mind is strange and unpredictable" -- Ty Lookwell

    by Illinibeatle on Thu Oct 11, 2012 at 05:49:06 AM PDT

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