Manager says Wal-Mart critics are wrong

Letter to the editor

Posted: Thursday, June 02, 2005

Letter writer Ben Madison is absolutely right about consumers welcoming Wal-Mart to help them deal with the high cost of living ("Save Juneau from Wal-Mart's ills" on May 26).

Job seekers welcome us, too, usually lining up by the thousands when we open a new store, hoping to become a Wal-Mart associate. Once they join our company, our turnover is far below the industry average.

How could this be, if the writer's other assertions about our company were correct? The answer is that he is wrong about our jobs, our goods, and our impact in the community.

Full-time Wal-Mart hourly associates in Alaska earn an average of $10.77 per hour, more than twice the minimum wage.

We offer very competitive benefits. A recent study by The Segmentation Company (a division of Yankelovich) showed that Wal-Mart associates have health care coverage at approximately the same rate as other retailers. Currently, 86 percent of Wal-Mart hourly store associates have medical insurance - 56 percent from Wal-Mart, and the remainder from another source such as another employer, a family member, the military or Medicare, according to the study.

Our seven stores in Alaska employ 2,726 associates, but our positive impact on employment in the state goes far beyond our own walls. Last year, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. spent $42.6 million for merchandise and services with 226 suppliers in the state of Alaska. As a result, Wal-Mart supports 6,985 supplier jobs in the state of Alaska, according to Dun & Bradstreet. A Wal-Mart store also attracts other retail and service businesses nearby that want to take advantage of the customer flow we generate.

Yes, Wal-Mart, like virtually every other retailer, imports some goods from China. Last year our direct and indirect imports from China totaled $18 billion, compared to $137.5 billion we spent with suppliers in the United States.

We are proud of our contribution to communities and to consumers, helping to raise their standard of living. Thank you for this opportunity to present the facts.

Tim Scott, district manager


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