According to IBISWorld,
an independent market research company, the average Walmart worker makes $8.81
an hour.,  This is less than workers make at many competing companies. The average cashier at Costco, for example, makes $15.50 an hour.
Because Walmart workers make so little, many of them cannot afford
to buy health insurance. In 2009, just 52% of workers had employer-sponsored insurance. Given that Walmart has since increased
premiums and eliminated insurance for part-timers, this number is undoubtedly
much lower today.
The company's low wages and inadequate benefits also affect non-employees. For instance, a 2007 study by the UC-BerkeleyLaborCenter concluded that its low wages drive down wages in
competing retail stores. Its low wages also have the end result of placing a heavy burden on
taxpayers. Because they’re paid so little, a disproportionately large number of
Walmart workers depend upon such government programs as Medicaid, food stamps,
and subsidized housing.
Many Walmart workers have in the past fought to improve
their situation by organizing, only to be stymied time and again. Human Rights Watch, among others, has documented how Walmart has employed
numerous tactics, some legal, some illegal, to deprive workers of this basic
2) Walmart can afford
to take care of its workers.
The Walton family is unbelievably wealthy, holding as much
wealth as the bottom 41.5 percent of American families combined. Yes, you read
that right: The Walton family holds as much wealth as the bottom 41.5 percent
of Americans families, that is, 49 million families.
Scholars at the Economic Policy Institute have shown that Walmart
could easily increase worker pay while retaining its edge against
competitors. Walmart currently has a profit margin of 3.57%. If it reduced its margin
to its 1997 level (2.9%),it would still have a significantly higher margin than
Costco (1.72%). If Walmart took this money and gave it to non-supervisory
workers, each worker would receive an annual raise of 13 percent or $2,100.
One study showed that if Walmart instead decided to charge
higher prices in exchange for higher wages, consumers wouldn’t be greatly
affected. If, for instance, Walmart bumped up worker wages to $12 an hour, the average
consumer would pay an additional $0.46 per trip or $12.49 per year.
3) Walmart, therefore,
should take care of its workers.
Just elementary morality here.
4) Since Walmart refuses to take care of its workers, we must pressure it to do so.
And a boycott is probably the most effective way to do this.
* * * * *
Two Caveats: First, I feel the need to point out that this boycott isn’t intended to destroy Walmart. Rather, it’s intended to help Walmart workers and in so doing to make Walmart itself a better company.
Second, I don’t
think the poorest Americans should feel guilty for shopping at Walmart. It’s
true that Walmart has “Always Low Prices,” and people with limited means have
to do what they have to do to get by. But I think that those of us who can
afford to pay slightly more for, say, a second Blu-ray player, really should
make an effort to shop elsewhere.
* * * * *
One Counterargument: The
most common argument given by Walmart defenders is that Walmart’s low prices make
up for its low wages. Instead of dealing with that argument here, let me refer
you to Bernstein et al.’s “Tradeoffs
Between Profits, Prices, and Wages.”
 Specifically, the study found that between 1992 and
2000 every additional Walmart store that opened in a given county caused
overall retail wages to drop by 1.5 percent. “With an average of 50 Wal-Mart
stores per state, the average wages for retail workers were 10 percent lower,
and their job-based health coverage rate was 5 percentage points less than they
would have been without Wal-Mart’s presence” (Arindrajit Dube, T. William
Lester, and Barry Eidlin, “A
Downward Push: The Impact of Wal-Mart Stores on Retail Wages and Benefits,”
UC Berekely Center for Labor Research and Education, December 2007).