mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Fisking the Wal-Mart speech fisker...

Tim Noah of Slate is fisking a pro-Wal Mart speech that Wal-Mart sent him. I thought some of his comments had as much spin as the Wal-Mart spin he complains about, so I thought I'd take a look.

He starts off complaining about the fact that Wal-Mart says that the average wage is $10, saying that it is driven up by the pay of top execs. Now, I'm no math major, but I'm going to guess that the fact that Wal-Mart has millions of hourly employees is probably going to do more to balance it out than a handful of execs.

He also sees the figure as wrong because "the average pay of a sales clerk [italics mine] at Wal-Mart was $8.50 an hour, or about $14,000 a year, $1,000 below the government's definition of the poverty level for a family of three.

Now, I'm going to venture that the Century Foundation, where he got that stat from, did the same cherry-picking of stats that Wal-Mart did. I'm guessing that clerk is probably the lowest-paid position that Wal-Mart has, and that other positions, like cashier or stockroom, might pay more and bring up that average.

As far as the "working family of 3" complaint, I think that many Wal-Mart employees are not supporting families of three. They are providing their family with a second income, or they are retiries or students getting additional income. Raise wages too much, and Wal-Mart will eliminate these postions, and those people won't have this additional income.

Tim also looks at a comment that the Wal-Mart wages are comparable, except in urban areas.

Wal-Marts have traditionally targeted rural areas where unions are weak, so of course the pay would be lousy at comparable retailers nearby....

Rual areas may be less unionized, but they also have a lower cost of living than urban areas. Assuming that Wal-Mart's wages are fairly consistent nationally, this may be more of a function of location than unions.

The disparaging reference to "urban markets with unionized grocery workers" is a reminder that Wal-Mart has successfully resisted virtually all efforts to unionize its stores, even in labor-friendly blue states.

Umm, there a bunch of US Wal-Mart stores that have voted if they should unionize. And the employees have rejected it. This would seem to suggest that Wal-Mart employees are happy with working for Wal-Mart, or at least think they are better off without unions than with them.

And my anecdotal knowledge of the unionized grocery business is that grocery store workers are overpaid. A reletive I know works 2 days a week at a local grocery store just for the benefits - which include free legal services when he bought his house and a better health insurance than my full-time job has.

Yes, but what exactly is a "full-time worker"? Typically, full-time is defined as 40 hours a week or more. At Wal-Mart, it's defined as 34 hours a week. So of course Wal-Mart has more "full-time" workers.

Yup, that evil Wal-Mart, playing with the numbers. Nevermind that the context was that it means that more Wal-Mart employees qualify for insurance than in most other retailers. As far as the "40 hours or more is full-time", every job I've ever had has considered full-time to be 37.5 hours. I'm also guessing that Wal-Mart's definition would mean that employees who work over 34 hours a week would get overtime pay, which would be in their best interest.

According to Head, fewer than half of Wal-Mart's employees can afford even the company's least-expensive health plan.

I wonder how many of them are students, retirees, or covered under a spouse's plan?

Then Tim tries to say that the Scott, the Wal-Mart CEO should paid less, because he made comments that retail always pays poorly because it is more labor intensive than the auto industry:

But if Scott took this argument at all seriously, he'd have to concede that his own pay should be reduced drastically below its current level. In 2003, the most recent year for which I can find data, Scott sucked down $29 million (including stock-option grants). That same year, G.R. Wagoner, president and CEO of General Motors, hauled in about half that amount, $15 million. Following Scott's logic, I don't see how he can avoid knocking his own pay down to around $10 million...
And if Scott wants to argue that he works for the nation's biggest company? We all know how to answer, don't we? All together now: "Dude! It's only retail!"

Never mind that Wal-Mart is doing fairly well, while GM hasn't been. Or that the retail sector is incredibly competitive and requires quite a bit of managment savy. Can't pass up the chance to take another swipe at Wal-Mart.


At 12:44 PM, Blogger Bridget said...


Very good fisking. You may want to also add statistics on average employee overturn. I think the rate at most Wal-Mart's is very high. In which case, it is not in the best interest of Wal-Mart to offer its employees higher wages or health insurance because the majority will not be around long enough to have earned it. I suspect that the majority of longer term employees are insured and get paid above the average.

At 10:24 PM, Blogger tap said...

wal'mart vacation time is only in sept. some people have been cut from full time hours is cut to part time. a person in the sams club has been fired for not being able to smile because she paralyzed.

At 3:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see the attacks on Walmart as nothing more than damage control by the unions for decades of declining membership. Walmart's profits, read: deep pockets, make them a logical and easy target.

The reality is that there is no such thing as a livable wage, it is a white whale. I am constantly bombarded with statistics for family of three, or four. Why? Does the union, or other Walmart critics ever come out and say that a UAW autoworker makes enough money support a family of 20? Or, that they earn up to 10X what a Walmart worker earns for the same unskilled labor? Of course not.

As for all of this "Fair Share" legistlation being considered now, this is truly reprehensible. Nothing more than back door socialism. The states enacting these laws are the ones who created the loophole in the first place. More damage control. They are the first to claim 10,000 jobs created under their term but leave it to you to read the fine print. Besides, what does it say to a Walgreen worker? Are they less deserving health care than a Walmart employee?

It is all nonsense.


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