FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Wal-Mart’s Magic Numbers

by STAN COX

The king of discount retailing is looking like a blue chip bargain.

James Hale, The Online Investor, March 4, 2004

Wal-Mart probably doesn’t set out with the purpose of destroying lives and wrecking the American economy. The company is trying, in a bigger way than has ever been tried before, to achieve three contradictory goals: pay its workers enough, make its mechandise affordable to almost everyone, and increase value for stockholders. In doing so, it has been both a wild success and an utter failure. In its ultimate inability to satisfy all three goals simultaneously, Wal-Mart mirrors the economy at large.

A list of numbers serves to illustrate how Wal-Mart deals with tradeoffs among the interests of workers, customers, and shareholders:

Pay scales, high to low

$2,200,000,000: Total dividends Wal-Mart plans to pay its shareholders this fiscal year, after a 44% dividend increase announced March 2, 2004

$23,000,000: Average annual compensation for Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott, 2000-2003

$4,500,000: Average annual compensation for previous Wal-Mart CEO David Glass, 1995-2000

$70,000 to $150,000: Bonuses (coming on top of typical base salaries exceeding $50,000) commonly earned by Wal-Mart store managers in 2002 as incentives to increase their own store’s annual profit, with profit increases coming largely through holding down labor costs

$9.68: Average hourly living wage as defined by 22 of the U.S. cities and towns that passed living wage ordinances between 2000 and 2004

$9.60: Average hourly wage Wal-Mart could pay if one-third of its current profits were diverted to pay its U.S. employees instead

$9.54: Average hourly wage Wal-Mart could afford to pay if it raised its prices an average of 1%

$9.32: Average hourly wage Wal-Mart could pay if the current annual dividend going to its stockholders were diverted to pay its U.S. employees

$9.15: Hourly wage that Dana Mailloux was earning at a Ft. Myers, Florida Wal-Mart when she and more than a dozen similarly paid employees were laid off because of “lack of work”, after which, as they were leaving the store, they noticed “six new hires — red vests in hand — filling out paperwork,” and then that next weekend saw Help Wanted ads on the store’s bulletin board

$8.00: Approximate nationwide average hourly wage for Wal-Mart employees

$6.25: Starting wage for a cashier at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Salina, Kansas, 2003

$12,192: Income earned by a newly hired cashier working 40-hour weeks (more than the 32-hour company-wide average) for a year, with no weekdays off, at the Salina Supercenter

$13,994: Minimum annual expenses for bare existence faced by a single cashier with children 4 and 12 who lives in Salina, Kansas and provides as many necessities as possible by shopping at the Supercenter where she works (Expenses do not include child care costs, which, if the cashier finds a qualified provider, are covered by a state subsidy.)

$6.00: Typical hourly rate being paid by Wal-Mart to custodial contractors for the services of more than 300 undocumented workers in late 2003 (with the contractor, not Wal-Mart, having to pick up the employer’s share of the workers’ Social Security tax)

$0.31: The legal hourly minimum wage in China

$0.23: Average hourly wage at 15 Chinese factories making clothing, shoes, and handbags to be sold at U.S. Wal-Mart stores, 2001

73: Average number of hours worked per week by employees at those 15 factories

Some other numbers

127: The number of Wal-Mart stores, out of 128 audited in 2000, that were found not to be allowing sufficiently for 15-minute breaks as provided for in company policy

$150,000,000: The total back pay Wal-Mart is estimated to owe employees in Texas for having compelled them to work through their 15-minute breaks over a four-year period

40 hours, 36 seconds: Amount of time worked in one week by Wal-Mart employee Georgie Hartwig of Washington State, for which she was upbraided by her manager for clocking more than 40 hours, which costs the store in overtime wages

45%: Proportion of her entire annual wage that a single Wal-Mart employee might have to pay out-of-pocket before collecting any benefits from the company-sponsored health plan

42,000: Number of Wal-Mart employees in the state of Georgia in 2002

10,261: Number of children of Wal-Mart employees in Georgia who are enrolled in the state’s PeachCare for Kids health insurance program, which provides medical coverage to children whose parents cannot afford it

$420,750: Annual cost to U.S. taxpayers of a single 200-employee Wal-Mart store, because of support required for underpaid workers — including subsidized school lunches, food stamps, housing credits, tax credits, energy assistance, and health care

5: Wal-Mart’s rank, if it were a separate nation, among China’s biggest export markets — ahead of Germany and Britain

45%: Decrease in annual sales of Levi-Strauss clothing from 1996 through the first half of 2003, largely because of competition from less expensive jeans sold at Wal-Mart

6%: Sales increase in the third quarter of 2003, just after Levi-Strauss began supplying jeans to Wal-Mart

60: Number of U.S. clothing factories operated by Levi-Strauss in 1981

2004: The year in which Levi-Strauss will close its last two U.S. plants and stop manufacturing jeans, importing them from overseas instead

STAN COX lives in Salina, Kansas, where he is a plant breeder and writer. He can be reached at: t.stan@cox.net

 

Stan Cox is a senior scientist at The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas and author most recently of Any Way You Slice It: The Past, Present, and Future of Rationing (The New Press, 2013). Contact him at t.stan@cox.net.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail