Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Walmart: Forced to Pay a Living Wage?

The Chicago City Council is currently debating legislation to force large corporations, those that sell $1 billion annually and operate a store over 90,000 square feet, to pay a living wage ($10/hr + $3 in benefits) if they wish to operate within city limits.

The debate is very heated as proponents of the city ordinance believe it will balance out the negative effects these corporations tend to have on a community, such as driving small businesses to the ground. Opponents claim that this legislation will cause such giants to leave the city, thus robbing people of thousands of jobs.

However, will these giants actually leave Chicago, a thriving city, because their profits will be a couple million less than they expected? I think not. I think these corporations are greedy-enough to pay what they have to pay. They'll likely find ways to hire less people. Nevertheless, it is more likely they'll raise their prices. This will be bad for low-income families. But at least residents will be making more money and have better benefits. We have experienced significant inflation without raising wages. It is time to move along with inflation and pay our workers more. Since companies like Walmart pay low wages, many of their employees request some sort of welfare to make up for the low pay. Taxpayers, as a result, are screwed because of corporate greed.

Let's debate...


greencommunist said...

No, they will not leave, and if they do, good riddance.

It's about time some action is being taken. Bravo Chi-town.

BigNewsDay said...

No debate from me brother. Wal Mart would not pull out of Chicago if this happens because the one thing they care about as much as profits, is market share. They can make up the profits in other cities.

Lefty Metalhead said...

Thanks for the feedback. Like you said greencommunist, if they leave, good riddance. And BND, you're totally right about them wanting market share. Kudos!

BigNewsDay said...

Wow, my site has received 135 hits today.

Lefty Metalhead said...

Doesn't suprise me BND, you're a badass! You're moving on up. By the way, wasn't it about a year ago that you started BND? I started Metal Pundit June of 2005. I think you joined soon after.

BigNewsDay said...

Indeed Lefty, it has been about a year. Man, alot has happened in that year. Thanks for getting me started brother.

BlackLabelAxe said...

Alright, time to weigh in.

Greencommunist, welcome.

As for Wal-Mart, I do the most important thing a consumer should do for promoting fair wages- I shop only at places that treat employees well. Of course that means that I don't shop at Wal-Mart. I absolutely support Wal-Mart's right to pay people whatever they want to, because employment is voluntary. If you don't like your job at Wal-Mart, do something else. Every illegal immigrant on any jobsite I've ever been to earns $9/hour, and some don't even know how to operate heavy equipment or speak Enlgish.

Now I've heard that Wal-Mart likes to scam its employees out of wages with shady programs. That has to stop, and they need to pay illegal immigrant workers the exact same thing they'd pay anybody else to do the work.

Wal-Mart is a terrible store, run by apathetic and terribly underpayed employees, with probably the worst selection of goods I've ever seen. Note: just because they have one of everything doesn't mean they have a good selection. Usually your only choices there are Chinese-made crap, or generic Chinese-made crap.

If Chicago wants to pass that law, then good for them. They'll find out all the mayhem that ensues when you step on Adam Smith's "invisible hand". Capitalism cannot be made better by manipulation. Educated consumers who don't shop there can make it better.

It is a good thing to hear citizens voice their complaints about treating employees well. I'd like to challenge everybody to vote for these changes with your wallet- where it counts.

greencommunist said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly on almost everything you said. Except the part where you said there will be mayhem in Chicago. I don't think so. There are plenty of other places to get cheap Chinese made crap. K-mart, Target being the other two megalopacorporati (I love that word, don't know if it's a real word, but oh well) that are not as bad to their employees as Wally World.

If Wal-Mart pulled out of Chi Town, no one would notice except a few employees, and as the man said, Wal-Mart employees are already on welfare, they will get by til something else comes along.

Wal-Mart needs to realize they are not calling the shots, they think they are, but Americans are fickle. If they raised prices to make up for the losses, people would stop going there. Then they would lose more money. Nah, there will be no chaos, laws need to be made to protect citizens from the likes of Wally.

BlackLabelAxe said...

Yeah, there wouldn't be mayhem. Ultimately, the more you interefere with capitalism, the more screwed you are. Raising the local wages won't do this.

...Which brings me to an auxilliary point. People want the Fed to raise minimum wage. My point is that quality of living is a very local issue. Some people can do alright on $5.15/hour, if you live in rural Arkansas. Some people might live in poverty at $10/hour in LA or New York. Since this is a local issue, it must be left to the States to decide. The Fed telling everybody what wages should be is like telling everybody in the United States what sort of dress is appropriate for everybody in the US and territories for a given day.

Wal-Mart sucks, Target is better. I buy groceries from Publix, an employee-owned company that I bagged groceries for when I was young. I wish I'd bought stock back then, it's split 5x and tripled in value since I graduated high school!

Besides, I like having a selection of high quality products. Why would I buy Bud Light at the gas station when I can go to the Beverage Mart and get imported German Beer? Paulaner rules.

BlackLabelAxe said...

Oh, and the only reason people buy Chinese-made crap is because it's cheaper.

The only reason it's cheaper is because our current tax system doesn't tax it. Only American goods get taxed fairly. Imported Chinese crap slips by all the checks.

The FairTax actually taxes Chinese goods, putting them on a fair playing field with American goods. The benefits to American manufacturing and labor are so much greater than that, even.

greencommunist said...

Only states aren't taking initiative to raise minimum wages, and even in rural Arkansas 5.15 is not enough. It wasn't enough in 1995!

Lefty Metalhead said...

The reason we must put our hands in the capitalist dough is because the system itself is fallible. Capitalism, on paper, sounds fucking awesome. However, that couldn't be further from the truth. Our government has to find ways to compensate for the failures and side-effects of capitalism. If not, our society will begin to look more like Mexico's, where there are a few hundred rich families and the rest are impoverished. It's all about checks and balances.

greencommunist said...

Actually I have never thought capitalism sounds great in any respect. The whole notion is based on dog eat dog mentality. That is straight caveman bullshit.

BlackLabelAxe said...

Capitalism is the law of the land, wether it's written or not.

The first two people that met who traded a donkey for a plow and some tools invented capitalism.

Socialism is a grand invention that replaces natural laws like capitalism with man-made laws enforced by power-hungry assholes who want to to threaten the world with nuclear war and spend 26% of the nation's tax revenue on the military.

Socialism is like putting a pacemaker on a healthy 18-year-old. Yeah, a pacemaker might save your life one day when you're 75, but it'll keep you from being truly prosperous until then.

Lefty Metalhead said...

I suppose you have a point. The system is designed to have a few rich people, a few thousand not-so-poor people, and millions of extremely poor.

BlackLabelAxe said...

There are no flaws with capitalism, because it is a natural law. Gravity kills people, but we don't go around talking shit and passing laws about gravity, do we?

BlackLabelAxe said...

I hate to say this, because I'll never be rich like George Soros or George Bush:

Those people did something excellent to earn their fortunes. Well, Soros did anyways. If a society has a reward for innovators, inventors, and progressive leaders, then everybody will advance.

Those people who are on the bottom didn't do anything awesome like Soros did, and therefore they don't deserve the wealth that he's earned.

BlackLabelAxe said...

Think about one more thing:

Whoever invented the cellular telephone is now fantastically rich. We'll never get any of his (or her) money, but we get a chance to communicate with anybody wherever we go. That is truly an advancement for mankind. The invention of affordable technology has made an extremely positive impact on everybody's quality of life, and the inventor should be rewarded for that.

Lefty Metalhead said...

Think about this Axe, is it possible for everyone to do something spectacular and make millions? Is it possible for every person to be a millionaire? If so, wouldn't it be pointless to work hard at that point?

The capitalist system is flawed because it leaves many people behind. You can work your ass off for your entire life and still not amount any significant wealth. In this system, only a few people can be winners. That's the sad part of it.

BlackLabelAxe said...

Not everybody can be millionaires in any system at all. The socialist mindset would take from those who have earned fortunes just so that nobody could have any more than the next. It's just like the playground; "if I can't have it, nobody can!"

The fact that some will be super-rich, some will be middle-class, and some will be poor is not a flaw at all. That's human nature. If we were talking about sports, some people could run extremely fast, some can move pretty well, and some can barely run at all. Some can't run without assistence.

There's a good chance I'll never be one of those super-rich, but that's not the most important thing on earth, either. Some people want to worship money like it's God, and I support their ill-fated quest if that's what they want to do.

greencommunist said...

That's not necessarily true either. Socialism makes those that made a fortune of the work of others to reimburse them more than just their minimum wage and piss poor health benefits.

I am not against people living well due to intelligent moves and hard work. However, it is your responsibility to give back to the society so that it doesn't fall to shambles.

Especially those who get rich in the stock market. That money is generated by underappreciated employees who get the shaft.

greencommunist said...

Chris Rock said it well.

"Do you have to work 2 jobs just so you can be broke?"

That is America right now.

BlackLabelAxe said...

Here's my take on that:

Let me be in charge of a company I built, and I will share proportionately with each person based on performance- very similar to a salesman's comission. I agree that it's wrong to make windfall profits and keep paying the people who earned it for you the same thing. It's wrong, but it shouldn't be illegal.

People get what they deserve.

BigNewsDay said...

People get what they deserve.

That's not exactly true, Axe. If it were, the whole Walton family would be burning in a big pit of molten lava right next to the entire Bush family and that Dick Cheney.

greencommunist said...

People don't get what they deserve. Sure there are a lot of freeloaders out there who exploit the system, living off welfare when they don't need to. But that money is chump change compared to the money that Fortune 500 companies are grubbing from the underpaid labor of Indonesians and Mexicans (in America and Mexico).

Have you seen the factories of American companies like Briggs & Stratton in Mexico? There are fields surrounding the plant where the workers live in tents and carboard shanties. They make diddly shit for even the Mexican economy, and they work their goddamn asses off.

How is that for getting what you deserve, meanwhile how many millions is the CEO pulling in, for doing WHAT? Spouting rhrettoric in a boardroom. Fuck that.

BigNewsDay said...

What pisses me off are these assholes that get rich off the backs of their exploited laborers, and then have the nerve to say they earned that money through hard work. I guess they did, just not THEIR hard work. There are many corporations that act responsibly, and treat their employees with respect, while providing appropriate benefits.

greencommunist said...

Strangely enough Starbucks is a leader in that. Too bad they are killing small business coffee shops though.

I still don't buy Starbucks, but Wal-Mart could learn a little from them.

BlackLabelAxe said...

RE: Starbucks

South Park did an episode on that, which thoroughly outlines everything that anybody would ever need to know on the subject.

I'm really having a tough time figuring out why people would live in tents and get paid approximately shit for doing work that they volunteered for.

I sure don't think it's right to pay immigrants less money, or treat people unfairly, or not be allowed to share the benefits they bring to the company, but I support the right of assholes who choose to do it, and I support people's rights not to work for them, and I will exercise my own freedom to not buy their products.

Where others see injustice, I see opportunity. Once I develop the product and the means, I've got a business model that will promote vigorous prosperity and a thirst for acheivment that is only limited by the imagination of the employees. If you pay better wages, you'll get the best people. If you offer profit-sharing that is based 100% on individual performance, you'll have endless motivation and Esprit de Corps. The more money the employees make for the company, the more money they take home, and the more money you take home.

Lefty Metalhead said...

Unfortunately, such a business model will never be viable within the current greed-ridden business community. It's all about getting rich quickly and telling everyone else to fuck off. I don't support anyone's right to do that. But that's just me.

BlackLabelAxe said...

There are lots of corporations who do follow a similar model. None that I know of would push the limit as far as I would, but that's not to say that there aren't any great companies that really take care of their people. The problem is that most of them aren't publically traded. I think the pressure to post high earning for 3rd party investors is a great motivator of fraud.

However, I feel that it's important to allow these businesses to operate as they wish, because it makes the good ones look even better. I feel that the only way to defeat giant big-boxes like Wal-Mart who treat their employees like slaves is to bring a better product to the table, which better paid, motivated employees tend to do.

Lefty Metalhead said...


china joe said...

this has cause a huge uproar in my home of chicago. this ordinance is a double-edged sword. sure, more money will be paid, but that means wal mart will have to raise the prices of their goods. thus, everyone has to pay for it.
people always complain that the job doesnt pay enough. most people just seek other jobs. others bitch.

i agree than a city can have a higher minimum wage that its state. but if these large coporations have to pay so much money, then why not make the mom and pop stores do the same?

many of those places are going to have to raise the wages as well in order to compete with the money made by people falling under the big box law. thus, these places will have to increase the price of their goods as well. so shopping at any retail store in chicago will become more costly for all.

of course, this is just wild speculation on my part. but it is rational thinking

Lefty Metalhead said...

On a sidenote, perhaps Chicagoans like us will save tax money since more people will rely less on government assistance, assuming big-box stores pay the new minimum wage. In the end, it's one of those things aimed at bullying a corporate bully that much deserves a dose of its own medicine.

BlackLabelAxe said...


The government will save money when less people have to rely on them- that's a fact. What's never, ever true is that they'll pass those savings on to you.

When was the last time gasoline got cheaper because new drilling technology reduced the cost of production?

Whever you have a company controlling both upstream production and downstream retail, they have a huge process to extract massive profit from, and production or efficiency increases rarely lead to reduction in consumer prices. The oil companies are famous for this because of their monopoly, but the government is the original gangster, and by far the worst perpetrator of this tactic. They have the greatest monopoly of them all.

Social security funds? Yeah, they're collecting more now than they have to pay off, which is the only reason why it works. The surplus was supposed to be invested which will create a trust fund that should propel the system far into the negative cashflow era. Instead, look at all the crap Robert C. Byrd spent our money on, and named it after himself. Our government is not passing the savings on to us.

Lefty Metalhead said...

I'd argue the government isn't passing the savings on to us because it happens to be Republican-controlled (Iraq, Katrina fiasco, tax cuts). But then again, I'm just a biased Democrat.