Walmart

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Jim, Alice and Rob Walton(L-R)

Walmart is the world's largest retailer, according to Forbes,[1] with 10,994 stores around the world in 2014, including more than 4,800 stores in the U.S.[2] It is also the world's largest corporation in revenue[3] and was the largest importer of goods to the United States as of 2013, according to the Journal of Commerce,[4] contributing significantly to the U.S. national trade deficit.

Estimates of the average hourly wage for Walmart associates vary, but several independent sources put it under $9.00 per hour. An independent study in 2011 found that the average Walmart associate made just $8.81 per hour[5] and a July 2014 report found that Walmart cashiers averaged $8.48/hour.[6] An April 2014 study by Americans for Tax Fairness estimated that subsidies and tax breaks for Walmart and the Walton family that owns the operation cost U.S. taxpayers $7.8 billion per year, including approximately $6.2 billion in assistance to Walmart workers due to low wages and benefits.[7]

Walmart is one of the "biggest and fastest growing" climate polluters in the nation, say experts at the Institute for Local Self Reliance. Between 2005, the year the company launched its “sustainability” campaign, and 2013, Walmart’s self-reported greenhouse gas emissions grew 14 percent.[8]

According to the Journal of Commerce, Walmart was the largest importer of goods to the United States in 2013.[9] A report from the Economic Policy Institute estimated that Walmart's trade with China between 2001 and 2006 was responsible for the elimination of 200,000 U.S. jobs.[10]

Walmart spent $2.4 billion in advertising in 2014,[11] much of it specifically to trumpet its role as an employer,[12] its commitment to hire military veterans,[13] and its new US manufacturing initiative.[14]

Walmart is a publicly traded company, majority-owned by the Walton Family.[15] The Walton family is the wealthiest family in the United States with a fortune worth $148 billion in 2014.[16] They use their wealth to support a variety of right-wing causes, including the privatization of public schools. For more information about the Walton family, see below and read the Walton Family Foundation article.

Contents

Walmart and the African-American Community

Walmart is the largest private employer of African-Americans in the United States. [17] More than 20% of Walmart’s 1.3 million US workers are African-American. [18] [19] A recent report by Americans for Tax Fairness found that, even with Walmart’s announced wage increases, many Walmart Associates will continue to earn so little that they qualify for food stamps and other taxpayer funded programs.[20] Nearly 40% of African-American part-time retail workers would like to work full-time if they could get the hours.[21] Roughly half of all Walmart Associates are part-time.

People of Color are Under-represented in Walmart Management

Although people of color make up 39% of all Walmart Associates, only 22% of Walmart officers are people of color. [22] Similarly, Walmart’s Board of Directors has just two people of color on their 15 member board (13%).[23]

The Walton Family Disproportionately Funds Politicians Who Vote Wrong on Civil Rights

The Walmart PAC and Waltons’ contributions from 2005 to 2012 show that, among candidates with Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights scores, the Walmart PAC and Waltons favored candidates who failed to protect civil rights.[24] In fact, 85% of the Waltons’ contributions went to candidates with scores of 25 or below, out of 100.

Stunning Disparity between the Wealth of the Walton Family and the Struggles of the African-American Community

The Walton family is the wealthiest family in America and is worth more than $149 billion.[25] The Economic Policy Institute found that the Waltons’ wealth is now equivalent to 79% of African-American families combined.[26]

Labor Issues

Report: Suppliers Violate Labor and Environmental Standards While Walmart Neglects Enforcement (2015)

A 2015 report by the Food Chain Workers Alliance, which analyzed key suppliers in Walmart's food supply chain, "found numerous cases in which suppliers are failing to uphold Walmart’s compliance standards and in which Walmart is neglecting to enforce its own standards and goals... [including] illegal dumping of hazardous waste, improper protection of workers from occupational health and safety dangers, violations of workers’ freedom of association, and, in some cases, slave and forced labor, both in the United States and abroad."[27] The report also noted numerous cases in which Walmart had publicized major plans to improve labor conditions and lessen its environmental impact, but quietly discontinued the programs or saw them fall dramatically short of their goals.

Suppliers and contractors examined in the report included: Monterey Mushrooms, Inc., Giorgio Foods, Inc. (mushrooms); Naturipe Farms, LLC, SunnyRidge Farms/Dole Berry Company, Gerawan Farming, Chiquita, Del Monte, Dole Food (fruit); Taylor Farms (packaged salads); Flowers Foods (bread and baked goods); Cal-Maine Foods, Rose Acre Farms, Moark, LLC (eggs); Nestlé S.A., Dean Foods, Schreiber Foods, Land O' Lakes (dairy); Tyson Foods, Inc., Pilgrim’s Pride/JBS S.A., Perdue Farms, Inc. (chicken); Schneider Logistics, and United Natural Foods, Inc. (warehouse and food distribution).[27]

Some key findings in the report:[28][27]

  • Seafood supplier Charoen Pokphand Foods has been tied to slave labor in southeast Asia
  • Federal suits over alleged discrimination have been filed against egg producers Rose Acre Farms and Cal-Maine Foods
  • Walmart itself does not pay a living wage to its own employees, and has been repeatedly accused of gender and racial bias in hiring and promotions in Walmart stores
  • The company is known for "greenwashing," including a 2010 promise to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 million metric tons by 2015, only 38 percent of which had been achieved by mid-2015; and a much-hyped 2010 "Heritage Agriculture" program to promote local foods, which had disappeared from Walmart's website by 2015.

Read the full report here: "Walmart at the Crossroads: The Environmental and Labor Impact of its Supply Chain."

Judge's Ruling for Truckers in Wage Suit Could Cost Walmart $100 Million in Back Pay (2015)

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston issued a summary judgement in May 2015 in favor of a group of truckers who had sued Walmart over claims that they had not been paid for all the time they worked. The ruling could cost Walmart between $100-150 million in back pay, according to the Fresno Bee.[29] The class action suit, which included 720 current and former drivers for Walmart, "contend[ed] that Wal-Mart’s payment policies, as articulated in Wal-Mart's Driver Pay Manuals, violate California wage law by failing to pay drivers at least minimum wage for all of the time they work, including time spent on pre-trip and post-trip inspections, rest breaks, wait time, fueling the tractor, washing the tractor and trailer, weighing the tractor and trailer and completing mandatory paperwork," as described in Illston's ruling.[30]

Referring to Walmart's pay manuals, Illston wrote, "Here, certain required tasks are specifically designated unpaid activities... The Court finds that the pay policies detailed in the Manuals violate California wage law by failing to pay drivers at least minimum wage for all of the time they work."[30]

A spokesperson for Walmart disputed the court's decision, saying, "There has been no finding that any Wal-Mart driver has not been paid minimum wage for each hour worked" and that Walmart would continue to fight the truckers' claims.[29]

Walmart Abruptly Closes Five Stores, Including Site of Strike; Blames Plumbing (2015)

Accusing Walmart of closing five stores, located in Texas, California, Oklahoma, and Florida, and laying off 2,200 workers in retaliation for union organizing, a group of workers represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board on April 20, 2015.[31] In the complaint, the UFCW stated that one of the closed locations, a store in Pico Rivera, California, had been a central site for worker organizing and protests since 2012, including the first Walmart workers' strike in the United States, and noted that Walmart had previously been ruled by the Canadian Supreme Court to have broken Canadian law by closing a store in retaliation for unionizing.[32]

An ABC News affiliate in Tampa, Florida reported that the closings happened abruptly: "In a nearly identical manner at every store, Walmart corporate officials visited the five locations, called an impromptu meeting in the back of the store and told employees that the stores would be closing that evening." ABC described the scene outside the Florida store as chaotic.[33]

Walmart has denied allegations of labor violations and has claimed that the stores had been closed to fix plumbing issues. But an investigation by ABC News found "none of the five affected stores have sought any plumbing permits for future repairs," and that in Pico Rivera, a store manager and City Manager James Enriquez reported seeing no evidence of plumbing problems or of plumbing work being done at the store.[33]

Walmart Ordered to Pay $188 Million in Wage Theft Lawsuit (2014-2015)

In December 2014 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court confirmed earlier court decisions from 2006, 2007 and 2011 that require Walmart to pay $151 million in lost wages and damages and $36 million in attorney fees for underpaying wages to Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club employees in Pennsylvania from 1998-2006.[34] The court confirmed that Walmart forced employees to miss or shorten paid rest breaks and to work “off the clock” after punching out. The ruling is expected to affect approximately 187,000 employees and former employees.

A Walmart spokesperson told Reuters, "Walmart has had strong policies in place to make sure all associates receive their appropriate pay and break periods."[34] Despite having lost at every appeal, the company has again appealed the decision, this time to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the workers' claims should not have been grouped into a class action suit.[35]

Canadian Supreme Court Rules Walmart Closed Unionized Store Illegally

In 2005, Walmart closed a store in Jonquière, Quebec shortly after workers voted to form a union, becoming the first unionized Walmart store in North America. Walmart claimed that the store was unprofitable, but workers filing the lawsuit believed the company had retaliated against the organizing effort. The Canadian Supreme Court ruled against workers in their first lawsuit, alleging violations of the right to free association, in 2009. A second suit in 2013 argued "that the company violated a provision of the Quebec labour code by changing the workers’ conditions of employment without consent while the terms of the collective agreement were being negotiated. In 2014, the Court upheld an arbitrator's ruling that Walmart had violated Quebec labor laws by closing the store. [36]

Majority of Walmart Workers Paid Less Than $25,000 a Year

Estimates of the average hourly wage for Walmart associates vary, but several independent sources put it under $9.00 per hour. An independent study found that the average Walmart associate makes just $8.81 per hour[37] and a July 2014 report found that Walmart cashiers average $8.48/hour.[38]

A Walmart pay plan[39] published in the Huffington Post frequently uses a wage of $8.00/hr in its examples of how to determine associate pay.[40]

At $8.81/hour, an employee who works Walmart's definition of full-time (34 hours per week)[41] makes just $15,500 per year. The websites Glassdoor and Pay Scale also indicate hourly wages below $10/hour. The company will frequently cite higher numbers by lumping managers in with its averages and excluding part-time and temporary workers.[42]

In a September 2013 address to investors at Goldman Sachs, Walmart US CEO Bill Simon told the audience that "over 475,000 (Walmart) associates earned more than $25,000 last year."[43]

Walmart has 1.4 million associates in the U.S., including 1 million hourly associates in its stores. Mr. Simon's statement means that the majority of Walmart employees are paid less than $25,000 a year.[44]

Though a Walmart spokesperson disputed some of the figures, he did confirm that a majority of Walmart's hourly Associates earn less than $25,000 a year.[44]

In August 2014, a Walmart assistant manager from Oklahoma wrote to Gawker about the incentives for store managers to keep payroll costs down and the consequences: "Their pay can get doubled if they meet certain criteria. A huge part of it is keeping your payroll costs down. Which means gradually forcing the long time employees out. And replacing them with temporary workers, who are not eligible for healthcare, time off, or even a discount card. Most of these people start off at $7.90 an hour and are already on public assistance."[45]

Minimum Wage Campaigns Push Walmart to Raise Base Wages

In late 2014, Reuters reported that Walmart would be forced to increase base wages in over one-third of its U.S. stores due to increases to the minimum wage in numerous states across the country. The information was contained in a leaked internal memo, which went on to explain that the company would narrow the gap between lower paid positions and higher paid positions to help absorb some of the cost. Reuters quoted an anonymous manager who explained, "Essentially that wage compression at the upper level of the hourly associate is going to help absorb that cost of the wage increase at the lower level."[46]

In February 2015, the company made an official announcement that it would increase the base wage to $9 per hour, which would affect around 500,000 workers. According to the Washington Post, "boosting half a million workers to $9 an hour will only cost it $1 billion over a year [...] which is a small chunk of the company’s $485.7 billion in revenue in fiscal 2015."[47] As a result, Walmart estimated its "average hourly wage for full-time workers will rise to $13 from $12.85 this year, while the average for part-time workers will rise to $10 from $9.48," Reuters reported.[48]

In an analysis released in February 2015, the Economic Policy Institute found "that while wages have continued to sink for people at most income levels through the economic recovery, since 2012, they have actually risen for the bottom 10 percent -- which suggests that, at a time when the economy is creating more low-wage jobs than high-wage ones, it might actually have to pay a little bit more in order to fill them," according to the Washington Post.[47] The EPI said the increase "can be attributed to a series of state-level minimum-wage increases, which have been proven to lift wages, particularly at the bottom of the wage distribution."[49] The Washington Post suggested that for Walmart, the "profit motive" was an additional factor:

"And Wal-Mart itself might have figured that putting more money in the pockets of its workers -- who are also its customer base -- might generate consumer demand that could boost its sagging profits.
"But the other thing that’s going on, of course, is a massive and sustained campaign by union-backed groups like OUR Walmart, which have been shaming Wal-Mart about its low wages for several years now [...] Public opinion is solidly in favor of a higher minimum wage, which would be nearly $11 if it had kept up with inflation since the 1960s. And in the absence of congressional action, cities and states have been boosting their own minimums accordingly -- sometimes even with Republican support."[47]

The Washington Post also suggested that the voluntary increase -- "as well as giving employees more control over scheduling, another key demand of labor groups -- potentially protects Walmart from a greater threat: Labor organizing. If employees see that they can win improvements in their working conditions without actually joining a union, they might be less likely to take a step that could give them real bargaining power over the long term."[47]

According to Reuters, labor "welcomed Wal-Mart's decision as a delayed step in the right direction":

"'For years Walmart has kicked and screamed that raising wages was not a feasible business model,' AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement. 'Workers everywhere are glad to see Walmart change their view.'
"Others reiterated their call for it to pay least $15 an hour, which they say represents the minimum 'living wage' for U.S. workers.
"The changes by Walmart 'are inadequate for the hundreds of thousands of employees who struggle to support themselves and their families,' Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, said in a statement."[48]

Michael Saltsman, who works for the PR firm Berman & Co. and its Employment Policies Institute "think tank,"[50] told the Washington Post, "Just because a $10 minimum wage is the right choice for Walmart ... does not mean it should be mandated for all other businesses, regardless of industry or size."[47]

Worker Reliance on Public Assistance

Because of Walmart's low pay, hundreds of thousands of Walmart workers are forced to utilize state subsidized benefits, including food stamps and public housing. Multiple reports have examined this issue:

  • An April 2014 study by Americans for Tax Fairness estimated that subsidies and tax breaks for Walmart and the Walton family cost taxpayers $7.8 billion per year, including approximately $6.2 billion in assistance to Walmart workers due to low wages and benefits.[51]
  • An April 2014 Marketplace series found that Walmart is the largest beneficiary of dollars from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps. The company receives roughly 18 percent of all food stamp dollars, more than $13 billion in revenue.[52]
  • A study by Good Jobs First found that, in many states, Walmart tops the lists of employers whose workers are most reliant on government assistance.[53]
  • A May 2013 Congressional report calculated that Walmart workers are forced to rely on $900,000 in taxpayer support, including food stamps and healthcare, at just one of the company's 4,000 U.S. stores.[54]

Increased Use of Temporary Workers

In June 2013, widespread reports indicated that Walmart was increasing hiring of temporary workers. At the time, Walmart spokesperson David Tovar said that less than 10 percent of Walmart’s U.S. workforce was temporary, compared with one or two percent previously. The ranks of full-time permanent staff are "reportedly getting slimmer and slimmer."[55]

Potential Impact of Wage Increases at Walmart

The retail sector, specifically, is the largest industry by employment in the United States, and is projected to add almost 1.1 million jobs between 2012 and 2022, more than most other industries. A study by Demos found that raising pay to a minimum of $25,000/year for full-time work at the nation's largest retailers, including Walmart, would lift more than 1.5 million retail workers and their families up from poverty or near poverty.[56]

Walmart is a Driving Force in U.S. Imports and Related Offshoring of U.S. Jobs

Walmart has long promoted free trade agreements that offshore U.S. jobs. From the 1994 NAFTA, to the 1995 World Trade Organization, to the 2000 China free trade agreement to the 2014 negotiations over the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) Walmart has pushed for agreements that offshore jobs and fuel a race to the bottom in U.S. wages and living standards. In 2014, Walmart pushed for a Fast Track trade bill[57] and was a member of the U.S. Business Coalition for the TPP.[58]

According to the Journal of Commerce, Walmart was the largest importer of goods to the United States in 2013.[59] In 2013, Walmart imported the equivalent of 731,500 containers to the United States, more than two-and-a-half times the volume of goods it imported in 2002. In 2013, Walmart was responsible for 1 in 25 containers imported into the United States.[60]

Report: Walmart's Global Web of Subsidiaries Aids Tax Avoidance (2015)

Partial diagram of Walmart's web of subsidiaries. Source: Americans for Tax Fairness.

In a 2015 report, Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) identified 78 Walmart subsidiaries located in 15 tax havens, countries in which Walmart has no retail operations and few or no employees, that the company is apparently using to shield income for tax purposes. These subsidiaries, not previously disclosed in Walmart's public filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission, appear to allow Walmart to shift assets and profits from higher tax to lower tax locations to minimize the taxes it pays.[61]

For example, ATF uncovered that Walmart has shifted ownership of at least $45 billion in assets to subsidiaries since 2009, including transferring ownership of operating companies for its stores in Japan, Brazil, South Africa, and Puerto Rico, to 22 shell companies in Luxembourg. Despite the fact that Walmart has no retail stores in the country and only a handful of employees, the Luxembourg shell companies hold $64.2 billion in Walmart assets--fully 75 percent of the company's International Division's assets--and paid taxes of less than 1 percent on $1.3 billion in profits between 2010 and 2013.[61]

Additionally, while U.S. law requires companies that want to reinvest foreign profits in its domestic business to first pay U.S. taxes on those earnings, Walmart appears to have gotten around this requirement by having company subsidiaries based in Luxembourg make low-interest, short-term loans to U.S. companies "without paying any U.S. tax." According to the report,

Such a financial maneuver would mimic Hewlett-Packard’s "de facto repatriation" of offshore funds using serial short-term loans, a program that was exposed by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcomittee on Investigations (PSI) in 2012...
During the first half of 2014, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. took $2.4 billion in short-term loans from seven of its Luxembourg subsidiaries. Where disclosed, the interest rates on these loans were minimal – from 0.25 percent to 0.28 percent... Walmart’s use of short-term loans could permit the company to effectively use pre-U.S. tax earnings to fund its domestic operations, which would transgress the intent of U.S. law.[61]

ATF notes that Walmart may hope to take advantage of a future voluntary repatriation tax holiday, as happened in 2004, in which companies would be allowed to repatriate foreign earnings at a low or even zero tax rate. Walmart's CEO has previously testified to Congress to argue for a system that would simply exempt foreign earnings from U.S. tax.[61]

ATF's report may not provide a complete picture of Walmart's "complex and opaque" business structure due to a lack of disclosure requirements and the company's lack of transparency, the report notes.[61] A Walmart spokesperson told Reuters that the report contained errors and was misleading.[62]

Walmart's Importing and Offshoring Strategy

The United States established permanent normal trade relations with China in 2000. An economist with the Economic Policy Institute estimated that Walmart was responsible for $27 billion in US imports from China in 2006 and 11% of the growth of the total US trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2006, with Walmart’s imports during this period leading to the elimination of 200,000 US jobs.[63]

In 2004, Duke Professor Gary Gereffi told PBS Frontline that “Walmart and China are a joint venture. And both are determined to dominate the U.S. economy as much as they can.”[64]

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman attributed the speed with which Chinese imports grew to Walmart. “One of the things that limits or slows the growth of imports is the cost of establishing connections and networks. Walmart is so big and so centralized that it can all at once hook Chinese and other suppliers into its digital system. So – wham! – you have a large switch to overseas sourcing in a period quicker than under the old rules of retailing.”[65]

Professor Gereffi further emphasizes the importance of Walmart's role in facilitating Chinese imports to the United States:

Walmart gives Chinese suppliers the specifications for Walmart products and they teach those suppliers how to meet those specifications. They have to do with price, they have to do with quality, they have to do with delivery schedule. So, in a sense, Chinese suppliers, learn how to export to the U.S. market through large retailers like Walmart.[66]

Due to Walmart's size, "even the largest suppliers must comply with its demands for lower and lower prices because they cannot afford to have their goods taken off its shelves. Companies that used to manufacture products in the United States, from Levi’s jeans to Master Lock, were pressured to shut their U.S. factories and moved manufacturing abroad to meet Walmart’s demand for low prices."[67] In turn, Walmart’s business model accelerated the use of offshore suppliers by its competitors, contributing to a greater loss of American manufacturing jobs.[67]

Walmart Announces US Manufacturing Initiative, Many Questions Remain (2013)

In January 2013, Walmart U.S. CEO Bill Simon first announced that the company would increase its purchases of American products, initially committing to buy an additional $50 billion in U.S. products over 10 years.[68] And in April 2014, the company said it has committed to “buy an additional $250 billion in products made, assembled, sourced or grown in the U.S. over 10 years in an effort to grow U.S. manufacturing and encourage the creation of U.S. jobs (began in 2013).”[69] In conjunction with this promise, Walmart has produced a series of ads, highlighting manufacturing jobs at its American suppliers.

The Numbers Need to be Put into Context

Walmart’s initial commitment to purchase $5 billion a year (based on the $50 billion over 10 years figure) in US products sounded substantial, but an increase of $5 billion per year amounts to just 2 percent of what Walmart currently spends buying goods for U.S. stores[70]. If Walmart spends $250 billion on U.S. products over the next ten years, that only represents about 8.7% of the company’s estimated total costs at Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club over that time. In contrast, Walmart is the country’s top importer of ocean container transport goods. [71]

Walmart does not appear to be on track to take credit for one million new American manufacturing jobs either. At the end of the first year of Walmart’s program, the company’s suppliers had only created “more than 2,000 U.S. jobs,” 0.2% of the ten-year goal.[72]

Increasing U.S. Sourcing is Something that Would Happen Anyway

Walmart will likely purchase over $250 billion more in US-sourced goods in the next decade simply due to its growth as a retailer – without making substantial changes to its sourcing practices. Combined sales at Walmart US and Sam's Club have grown at just below 2.9% over the past three years,[73] and the company has said that two-thirds of its purchasing currently goes to American goods.[74] If both of those factors as well as the company's gross margin remain the same over the next decade, Walmart would be expected to spend approximately $262 billion more on American goods anyway, so this new "commitment" should actually be considered a baseline on top of which any additional domestic sourcing should be added.

ChartWMTManufacturing.jpg

In fact, the Boston Consulting Group—the same firm Walmart hired to bolster its manufacturing job creation claims—reported in September 2013 that “More than half of U.S.-based manufacturing executives at companies with sales greater than $1 billion are planning to bring back production to the U.S. from China or are actively considering it.”[75]

Publicly available research from the Boston Consulting Group makes it clear that Walmart’s additional investment in American manufacturing is not driven by patriotism alone. A 2011 report from BCG further explains:

"China’s overwhelming manufacturing cost advantage over the U.S. is shrinking fast. Within five years, a Boston Consulting Group analysis concludes, rising Chinese wages, higher U.S. productivity, a weaker dollar, and other factors will virtually close the cost gap between the U.S. and China for many goods consumed in North America."[76]

How “Beautiful” is Work at a Walmart Supplier?

In its “Work is a Beautiful Thing” ad campaign, Walmart seizes upon the popular notion that American manufacturing jobs are well-paid jobs with good benefits, but Walmart supports the onshoring of these jobs at least partly as a cost saving mechanism in response to rising wages in China.[77]

One of the first factories touted by Walmart in March 2013 was 1888 Mills in Griffin, GA. The company makes towels for Walmart. The Los Angeles Times reported that 1888 Mills was adding a mere 35 jobs as part of Walmart’s initiative and that 90% of its production would remain overseas.[78]

Political Influence

Walmart Uses Political Muscle to Push Trade Policy that Supports Offshoring

Walmart spent $7.3 million on lobbying in 2013 alone. While this money was paid to influence a range of legislation, from lobbying against background checks for gun buyers to promoting corporate tax cuts, trade policy was among the issues Walmart lobbied on most aggressively.[79]

In fact, Walmart has lobbied to make it easier to push American jobs out of the country for years, playing a key role in in lobbying for Fast Track trade authority and NAFTA in the early 1990s,[67] as well as the World Trade Organization General Agreement on Trade in Services (which would allow them to establish stores in other WTO countries with little regard for local zoning laws),[80] China Free Trade, the Trans Pacific Partnership and other trade agreements. As one of the 600 industry advisers in the U.S. Trade Representatives Trade Advisory Committee System in 2014, a Walmart lobbyist has access to secret trade negotiating documents, including those for the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Ms. Angela J. Marshall Hofmann from Walmart's International Corporate Affairs division is the Vice-Chair of the USTR advisory group called ITAC-5 (distribution services). [81]

Allegations of Illegal PAC Scheme

In September 2014, the watchdog nonprofits Common Cause and Public Citizen and the workers' rights group OUR Walmart filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that "Wal-Mart is running an illegal scheme to prod employees into contributing to its political action committee, circumventing a federal law that bars companies from putting corporate funds into political campaigns," according to the groups.[82] The complaint claims that since 2004, the company has asked management employees to give money to its PAC by promising to pay 200% of employee PAC contributions into its Wal-Mart Associates in Critical Need Fund, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that offers financial assistance to Walmart employees in certain circumstances. According to the complaint, the solicitation employees received in 2004 read, "We're going to be relentless in encouraging participation until 100% of our management associates are on board."[83] FEC regulations prohibit a corporation for paying a PAC contributor "for his or her contribution through a bonus, expense account, or other form of direct or indirect contribution."[83] The complaint alleges that Walmart's donation-doubling is an evasion of this law.

“Federal law is clear – companies cannot fund their PACs with money from corporate coffers,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen. “Wal-Mart is attempting to evade this law by providing a 2-to-1 charitable match from corporate coffers for any campaign contribution to its PAC from company managers. That flouts the law by using substantial corporate money to reward campaign contributors.”[82]

According to the complaint, employees contributed $5.3 million and Walmart itself contributed $3.6 million to the Wal-Mart Associates in Critical Need Fund in 2012.[83]

Walmart PAC Spends $17 Million on Federal Elections

From the 2000 election cycle through the 2012 cycle, the Walmart Political Action Committee and the company’s majority shareholders, the Walton family, spent nearly $17 million in federal elections.[84]

ChartWalmartPAC.jpg

More than $11.6 million—69% of their contributions—went to Republican candidates and committees.[85]

Walmart uses corporate funds to contribute to candidates and ballot measure committees.[86] The company has been a major funder of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), the group behind the 2010 Republican takeover of state legislatures, giving over $1.5 million to the group since 2004.[87]

At the state level, Walmart has spent almost all of its political contributions on Republican candidates and committees as well as on ballot initiatives that help it build new stores or limit government regulation.[88] According to California Watch, Walmart has used the ballot initiative process to threaten costly special elections and circumvent environmental review in that state:

"The Arkansas-based retailer has hired paid signature gatherers to circulate petitions to build new superstores or repeal local restrictions on big-box stores. Once 15 percent of eligible voters sign the petitions, state election law puts cash-strapped cities in a bind: City councils must either approve the Wal-Mart-drafted measure without changes or put it to a special election.

As local officials grapple with whether to spend tens of thousands or even millions of taxpayer dollars on such an election, Wal-Mart urges cities to approve the petition outright rather than send it to voters."[89]

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

In August 2011, Walmart Stores and the Walton Family Foundation were listed as chairman-level sponsors of the ALEC’s annual meeting.[90] A chairman sponsorship cost $50,000 in 2010. From 2011 to 2012, Walmart’s then-VP of Public Affairs, Maggie Sans, served as the secretary of ALEC’s ("Private Enterprise")private enterprise board.[91] Walmart executive Janet Scott was the co-chair of ALEC’s Criminal Justice Task Force in 2005, when the task force approved template language for “Stand Your Ground” laws.[92] Walmart is also the nation's largest seller of guns and ammunition, and gun sales for the company have been rising[93].

In May 2012, Walmart withdrew from the organization.[94] The Walton Family Foundation has yet to publicly sever ties with ALEC, however. Since at least 2000, ALEC has backed a number of retail-related bills, including:

  • A bill that establishes "additional regulations" on swap meets and flea markets, making it harder for those small sellers to compete with retailers like Walmart;
  • A bill that would make it a "felony" to steal from three separate retailers, no matter the value of the stolen merchandise;
  • A bill that creates harsher penalties for thieves who leave stores through the "emergency exit" door.

A list of ALEC corporations, can be found here. A list of corporations which have cut ties with ALEC can be found here.

About ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.

Walmart is a Lobbying Powerhouse

In 2013, Walmart spent $7,260,000 on its lobbying efforts. With the help of 14 staff lobbyists and 14 outside lobbying firms, Walmart lobbied on dozens of issues at 13 federal agencies, as well as Congress and the White House.[95]

ChartWalmartLobbying.jpg

A top priority for the company has long been taxes, with issues ranging from corporate tax reform to online sales taxes.[96] The vast majority of Walmart’s 90 lobbyists are former Hill staffers. Additionally, five were former members of Congress.[97] The lobbying firms included Patton Boggs; Prime Policy Group; Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg; Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti; and Podesta Group.

Although the company claimed to be neutral on 2014 proposals to raise the federal minimum wage, their lobbying disclosures indicate that the company has lobbied extensively on the topic.[98]

Walmart Promises Greater Disclosure of State Lobbying

In response to shareholder pressure, Walmart "said it will start disclosing directly to investors what it spends on lobbying on a state-by-state basis," Business Insider reported in May 2015. State rules vary widely, making it difficult to know how much was spent in many states. Walmart plans to offer a spending tally for each state on its website, along with a link to the related state filing document. However, Walmart stopped short of the level of transparency requested in a shareholder resolution filed by Zevin Asset Management, which also asked for disclosure of "indirect lobbying" through other organizations.[99]

Walmart Consumers Give Company Low Ratings

Walmart is the largest retailer and the largest seller of groceries in the United States[100]. In 2013, Walmart had $16 billion in profits on revenues of $473 billion[101], but the company has been struggling recently with declining same store sales[102] and negative consumer sentiment. For the year ending January, 2014, Wal-Mart saw a 0.6 percent decline in same stores sales.

In May 2014, Wal-Mart reported falling sales for five consecutive quarters.[103] The company has admitted they could bring in an additional $3 billion a year by solving out-of-stock problems generally attributed to understaffing.[104] Various measures of consumer sentiment indicate that Wal-Mart’s low-cost business model may be negatively impacting the company’s growth.[105][106], [107]

Since 2007, Wal-Mart has ranked last on the American Customer Satisfaction Index[108] for retailers.[109][110] Wal-Mart also came in last, and well below average, in a 2013 survey of 6,600 of grocery shoppers by Market Force Information. In the Market Force survey, Walmart did not score in the top five on any of the operational attributes or product quality categories about which customers were surveyed – including the speed of check-out, cleanliness, and the quality of meat and produce.

In a 2014 survey of 27,000 Consumer Reports subscribers, respondents ranked Wal-Mart last among 55 supermarkets.[111] In the survey, respondents said that prices were as good or better at seven highly ranked supermarkets.[112]

A recent poll by Lake Research Partners found that among Walmart’s most loyal customers, those who shop there weekly, 9% say they have been shopping there less. Among these shoppers, "25% cite poor treatment of workers as a reason why they have been shopping there less."[113] Amplicate, which collates and analyzes online public opinion, has called Walmart the “least loved department store on social.”[114]

The New York Times reported on an internal company memo that indicated customers were losing trust in the quality of Walmart’s produce. The Times cited analysts who said the company “has cut so many employees that it no longer has enough workers to stock its shelves properly.[115][116][117]

In her 2012 investigative book, The American Way of Eating journalist Tracie McMillan concluded that Walmart’s management systems “completely broke down when it came to produce” contributing to problems with spoilage and lost sales.[118]

Walmart One of Largest Greenhouse Gas Polluters

Walmart is one of the "biggest and fastest growing" climate polluters in the nation, say experts. Since 2005, the year the company launched its “sustainability” campaign, Walmart’s self-reported greenhouse gas emissions have grown 14 percent.[119] Walmart's direct and indirect emissions now exceed those of many countries. This calculation does not include a number of sources of emissions, including those connected to ocean shipping of goods sold in Walmart stores.[120]

  • Compared to other large U.S. corporations, Walmart has been slow to shift to renewable power. It currently gets 4% of the electricity for its stores from wind or solar. In contrast, Kohl’s and Staples get 100% of their electricity from renewable sources, while Starbucks get 70% and McDonald’s gets 30%. Walmart’s use of renewable power decreased between 2012 and 2013.[120]
  • In 2007, the company set a goal of becoming packaging neutral by 2025.[121] After reducing packaging by 5%, the company declared the goal “not met” and ended the program in 2013.[122]

Environmental Impact of Walmart Business Model

Walmart’s business model carries a heavy environmental impact.

  • Big-box problems: Each one of Walmart’s 3,200+ Supercenters, averaging 105,000 square feet,[123] are estimated by the Sierra Club to use as much energy each day as nearly 1,100 homes.[124]
  • Sprawl and land consumption: Walmart is known for building large stores, along with massive parking lots, on the fringes of communities, in areas ill-served by public transit. Its selection of construction locations for new stores has been criticized for encouraging more car travel, sprawl, and irresponsible land use.[125][120]
  • Selling low-quality goods: Walmart’s focus on cutting costs has led suppliers to produce cheaper goods of lesser quality.[120] These goods wear out or break faster – requiring frequent replacements and creating more waste.[120] This creates a cycle that helps Walmart’s short-term sales but creates significant waste and environment impact in the long-term.[126]
  • Supply chain: Walmart is the U.S.’s largest importer of containerized ocean cargo. While ocean shipping is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, Walmart does not include the environmental impact of ocean shipping in its greenhouse gas emissions calculations. [127]

See also the 2015 report, Walmart at the Crossroads: The Environmental and Labor Impact of its Supply Chain.

Political Spending Favors Environmental Opponents

Walmart and the Walton family, the majority owner of the company, shows that Walmart and the Waltons are major contributors to electoral campaigns of politicians who obstruct action on the environment. In 2012, Walmart gave the "bulk of its money (over $3.6 million in the 2012 cycle) to lawmakers who regularly vote against the environment." [128]

Between 2005 and 2012, Walmart and the Waltons gave $2.1 million, more than half of their total Congressional campaign donations, to members of Congress with lifetime scores of 30 or less on the League of Conservation Voters scorecard. In addition, 69% of contributions from the Walmart PAC and 88% from the Walton family in 2011 and 2012 went to lawmakers who voted in favor of the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline in 2012.[129]

Veterans Offered Low Pay Jobs While Walmart Receives Subsidies

In May 2013, Walmart announced an initiative to “offer a job to any honorably discharged veteran within his or her first 12 months off active duty.”[130] The company clarified with the New York Times that they could not guarantee that these jobs would be full-time.[131] The company estimated that they would hire more than 100,000 veterans during the next five years,”[132] equivalent to 4 percent of the positions the company will need to fill in this timeframe.[133]

Under the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), Walmart will receive up to $9,600 in tax credits per veteran employee.[134] [135] Walmart has hired PeopleScout, a recruitment process provider, to handle the screening of veteran applications.[136] The website that PeopleScout created for applicants to Walmart includes a mandatory 13-question section labeled WOTC Questionnaire. This questionnaire determines if Walmart will receive a tax credit for hiring the applicant and the potential value of the credit. Walmart is also a member of the WOTC Coalition, a national organization that lobbies for extension of the WOTC.[137]

Concern over Job Quality for Veterans

The Boston Globe reported after the original veterans hiring announcement in January that “Walmart’s plan will help veterans meet their immediate need for a meager paycheck, but it won’t give them what they most desire over the long term: sustained support and training, now and in the future, that connect skills learned in the military with economic opportunities. Indeed, veterans’ long-term careers would barely be advanced if every retailer took up Walmart’s cause.”[133]

In an op-ed in Salon, disabled veteran and former Walmart associate Wally Lynn wrote about his experience, “Veterans from every American generation have put their lives on the line for our country, and it’s an insult that our country’s largest private employer pays us back with poverty jobs and erratic schedules that make it impossible to raise our families.”[138]

Female Walmart Workers Face Low Pay, Pregnancy Discrimination and Erratic Scheduling

The majority of Walmart associates (57%) are women.[139] The company has been the target of a significant number of lawsuits alleging gender discrimination - particularly around pay, promotions and safety accommodations at its stores.[140]

Walmart vs. Dukes, Gender Discrimination Lawsuit

Walmart spent 11 years as the defendant in the largest class action gender discrimination lawsuit in history, Dukes v. Walmart. The plaintiffs alleged Walmart discriminated against women in promotions, pay, and job assignments. [141] While fighting the class action status of the suit, Walmart maintained that the company has a strong ban on discrimination.[142]

Ms. Dukes was a Walmart associate from Pittsburgh, California. Her suit alleged that Walmart illegally discriminated against her by repeatedly denying her application for promotions and by retaliating against her when she continued to request these opportunities.[143]

The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit in 2011 for technical reasons; a decision was never issued on its merits. Subsequent suits with smaller classes have been filed in California, Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Wisconsin and other states.[144]

Differences in Pay and Leadership Roles by Gender

Women make up the majority of Walmart associates [145] and, as a result, are most directly impacted by the company’s low wages. In fact, 57% of Walmart’s workforce is made up of women. [146]

Although Walmart does not disclose current figures on differences in pay for men vs. women, a 2003 study found that female Walmart employees at all levels earned less than their male counterparts.[147] Women at Walmart earned $5,200 less per year than men, on average. Women who worked in hourly positions earned $1,100 less than men in the same position. Women in salaried positions earned $14,500 less than men in the same position.[148]

According to the most recent data available, in 2012, only 42% of Walmart officials and managers were women.[149] Women only hold 28% of the top positions at the company.[150]

Walmart Changes Pregnancy Policy Due to Worker Pressure

Walmart announced in April 2014 that it would alter its policy around accommodating pregnant women who work at Walmart. The change came after members of OUR Walmart who are worker-shareholders submitted a shareholder resolution to the company advising Walmart change its policy. Walmart reworked its policy so that women with pregnancy-related complications could be considered “temporary disabled” and would be eligible for “reasonable accommodation.”[151]

Walmart workers and their supporters from women’s rights organizations including the National Women’s Law Center, a Better Balance and the National Partnership for Women and Families had been pressuring the company, arguing that, prior to the change, Walmart’s pregnancy policy was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.[152] [153]

Workers and Women's Rights Groups Push for Additional Improvements to Pregnancy Policy

Tiffany Beroid, a leader of group "Respect the Bump"

Walmart workers and women’s advocates say Walmart's changed policy is an improvement but needs additional upgrades. Experts claim the wording isn't fully in line with the Pregnancy Fairness Act, and the wording of the policy could pose problems. Writing in the Huffington Post, law professor Deborah Widiss argues:

…. the relatively narrow wording Walmart has chosen for its policy suggests the company might not grant such requests if made by women with "healthy" pregnancies. This would be unfortunate -- and also often illegal. Walmart should revise its new policy to make clear that it will provide medically recommended accommodations for all its pregnant employees.[154]

Walmart and the Walton Family's History of Funding Candidates Who Vote Against the Best Interests of Women

The Walmart PAC and the Waltons spend millions of dollars each year on politics. And both give disproportionately to candidates who vote to weaken women's rights. From 2005 to 2012, among candidates with scores on the American Association of University Women’s 2012 Congressional scorecard, the majority of the Walmart PAC and Waltons’ contributions went to those with scores of 25 and below out of 100.[155]

In fact, over that time period Walmart and the Waltons gave over $1.5 million to candidates with scores of 0. The scorecard factors in a range of issues including the re-authorization of the Violence against Women Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, Planned Parenthood funding, and education.[156]

Walmart Heirs Wield Outsize Influence on U.S. Politics and Economy

Walmart is majority-owned by the Walton Family,[157] the wealthiest family in the United States with a fortune of $148 billion.[158]

Walmart was founded by Sam Walton and his brother Bud. They opened their first store in 1962.[159] Walmart is currently run by the next generation of Waltons, the children of Sam and Helen Walton. S. Robson "Rob" Walton (Wealth:$33.3 billion)[160] is Chairman of Walmart and has been on the company Board since 1978.[161] Rob's brother, Jim Walton (Wealth: $33.8 billion)[162]) is also a member of the Board of Directors.[163]. The final Walton family member on the Walmart Board member is Greg Penner.[164] Mr. Penner is the son-in-law of Rob Walton and his married to Mr. Walton's daughter, Carrie Walton Penner.[165]

Alice Walton (Wealth: $33.5 billion)[166] is not on the Walmart Board but is a major holder of Walmart shares.[167]

Christy Walton (Wealth: $35.4 billion)[168] is currently the richest woman in the world. She is the widow of John Walton who died in a private plane crash in 2005.[169]

Second Generation of Walton "Philanthropists" Fail to Support Family Foundation

The Walton Family runs the Walton Family Foundation (WFF). The WFF has nearly $2 billion in assets and is one of just 56 private foundations in the United States that exceeds $1 billion.[170] However, the foundation's assets are less than 1.5% of the Walton's net worth.[171]

A 2014 report found that the Walton family gives surprisingly little to the family foundation.[172] In fact, the report found that Rob Walton, chairman of Walmart’s board of directors, has not made a single contribution to the foundation, and neither has his sister, Alice Walton. Jim Walton made one personal contribution of $3 million to WFF, more than 15 years ago. In all, the total contributions of Rob, Jim, Alice, and Christy Walton, and their family holding company to the WFF amount to $58.49 million, or 0.04% of their net worth.

Walton Family Foundation Pushing Charters, Vouchers, Privatization of Public Schools

The Walton Family Foundation is one of the key drivers behind a vision of public education reform that seeks to, in the words of the WFF, infuse competitive pressure into America’s K-12 education system."[173]

The WFF has given more than $1 billion to corporate-style education reform initiatives, including millions to the pro-voucher, pro-privatization Alliance for School Choice.[174]

The foundation supports the legal assault on tenure in California.[175] The Foundation called the judge’s decision in Vergara vs. California a “historic victory,” and claims that California’s tenure system keeps “grossly ineffective teachers in front of students year after year.”[176]

In December 2013, the WFF announced that it would contribute $6 million to the Alliance for School Choice, with the aim of doubling the number of students attending private schools with publicly-funded vouchers.[177]

In 2013, the WFF contributed almost $500,000 to fund the “community engagement” process that led to the closure of more than 50 Chicago public schools.[178] [179]

Report on WFF's Influence on School Privatization Movement (2015)

In 2015, In the Public Interest and the American Federation of Teachers released a report, "Brought to You by Walmart? How the Walton Family Foundation's Ideological Pursuit is Damaging Charter Schooling," which according to its own description "explores the radical agenda of the Walton family and the foundation it controls, and how that agenda has taken the U.S. charter school movement away from education quality in favor of a strategy focused only on growth."

Executives and Compensation

Executives and Compensation[180] Total fiscal year 2014 compensation:

  • Michael T. Duke, then-President and CEO - $5,643,677
  • C. Douglas McMillon, current President and CEO - $25,592,938
  • Charles M. Holley, Jr, Executive Vice President and CFO - $8,199,391
  • William S. Simon, Executive Vice President and CEO of Walmart US - $13,054,360
  • Neil M. Ashe, Executive Vice President and CEO of Global eCommerce - $13,178,743
  • Rosalind G. Brewer, Executive Vice President and CEO of Sam’s Club - $ 11,664,423

Walmart Directors and Compensation for Fiscal 2014[181]

  • Aida Alvarez $269,404
  • James Cash $345,925
  • Roger Corbett $304,846
  • Pamela Craig $116,677
  • Timothy Flynn $320,812
  • Marissa Mayer $263,607
  • Gregory Penner $278,745
  • Steven Reinemund $257,046
  • H. Lee Scott, Jr $244,660
  • Jim Walton $247,089
  • Christopher Williams $384,821
  • Linda Wolf $284,351

Note: Lee Scott and Christopher Williams stepped down from the Walmart board, effective June 2014.

Contact info

WalMart Stores, Inc.
Attn: Customer Service
702 S.W. 8th Street
Bentonville, AR 72716
Phone: 1-800-WALMART (1-800-925-6278)
Fax: 479-277-1830
Web: http://www.walmartstores.com (corporate)
Web: http://www.walmartfacts.com Wal-Mart's Advocacy site

Articles and Resources

External Resources

Walmart at the Crossroads: The Environmental and Labor Impact of Its Food Supply Chain, Food Chain Workers Alliance, June 2015.

Catherine Ruetschlin "Retail's Hidden Potential: How Raising Wages Would Benefit Workers, the Industry and the Overall Economy" Demos November 19, 2012
"Making Change at Walmart"
"Glassdoor page for Walmart Stores"
"Payscale page for Walmart"

Robert E. Scott, "Walmart's Reliance on Chinese Imports Costs U.S. Jobs" Economic Policy Institute, June 27, 2007.

Harold L. Sirkin, Michael Zinser, Douglas Hohner,"Made in America, Again: Why Manufacturing Will Return to the U.S." Boston Consulting Group. August, 2011

Marsha Salisbury “Top 100 US Importers in 2013” Journal of Commerce May 23, 2014

"Walmart Class Website"

"Making Change at Walmart"

"Walmart 1%: The People Behind the Walmart Empire"

External Articles

Alana Semuels, "Factory Growth is No Job Machine" Los Angeles Times March 3, 2013

Amy Traub "Not Made in America: Top 10 Ways Walmart Destroys U.S. Manufacturing Jobs" Demos July 2, 2012

Susan Berfield "More Than Half of Walmart's Hourly Workers Make Less Than $25,000/Year" Business Week October 23, 2013

Avi Rabin-Havt "Walmart Flunks Its Fact Check the Truth Behind Its Sarcastic Response to the Times" Salon.com June 25, 2014

Steven Gandel "Why Wal-Mart Can Afford to Give Its Workers at 50% raise" Fortune November 12, 2013.

Nina Martin "The Impact and Echoes of the Walmart Discrimination Case" ProPublica September 27, 2013

Karen McVeigh and Dominic Rushe "Walmart Moms Walk Off the Job in Protest at Pay and Conditions" The Guardian, June 4, 2014.

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