Juneau will pay dearly for Wal-Mart

Letter to the editor

Posted: Monday, May 16, 2005

I was sorry to hear that Wal-Mart is coming to Juneau for the following reasons:

According to Jim Hightower in the Weekly Independent, Wal-Mart's average employee makes only $15,000 a year for a full-time job, and you have to work for two years to qualify for benefits. Only 38 percent of Wal-Mart employees have health-care benefits. Most employees make less than the $15,000 because they work part-time. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has had to file more suits against Wal-Mart for cases of disability discrimination than any other corporation.

Charlie Kernaghan of the National Labor Committee reports that in China, where people make toys sold at Wal-Mart, laborers work 13 to 16 hour days molding, assembling, and spray-painting toys seven days a week with 20 hour shifts in peak season. Even though China's minimum wage is 31 cents an hour, these production workers are paid 13 cents an hour. Workers typically live in squatter shacks, 7-by-7 feet, or in company dorms with more than a dozen sharing a cubicle costing $1.95 a week for rent. They also must pay for their own medical treatment and are fired if they are too ill to work. China, not being a free country, forbids workers to unionize. Seventy percent of Wal-Mart's inventory comes from Chinese suppliers.

By slashing retail prices below cost, Wal-Mart can crush local grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, and other retailers and then raise its prices once it has a monopoly over the local market.

By crushing local businesses, Wal-Mart eliminates three decent jobs for every two Wal-Mart jobs that it creates, and a store full of part-time, poorly paid employees hardly builds the family wealth necessary to sustain a community's middle-class living standard.

State officials in Georgia figured that in 2002, Wal-Mart employees had some 10,000 children on the rolls of Peach Care, the state's child health care program. No other company's employees had even a thousand children on the rolls. So, while the prices at Wal-Mart are cheap, the taxpayers make up the difference in paying for benefits Wal-Mart employees can't afford.

Please weigh the human costs versus cheap prices before welcoming Wal-Mart to Juneau.

Lisle Hebert


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