News Release

Wal-Mart Under Scrutiny


This week, the documentary “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price” has been released theatrically, along with thousands of home and community screenings of the DVD version.

Featherstone is the author of Selling Women Short: The Landmark Battle for Workers’ Rights At Wal-Mart. She said today: “Most people wouldn’t like to live in a crime-ridden neighborhood, with no police on the streets, but that’s the situation Wal-Mart employees face every day when they come to work. The company’s business model depends on breaking the law. When it comes to workers’ rights, our government has completely abdicated its law enforcement role, so Wal-Mart is never seriously punished for its actions. The company is getting away with child labor, race and sex discrimination, as well as violations of wage-and-hour and freedom of association laws.”
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Heintz is associate director and assistant research professor at the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He said today: “Using a strategy of ‘everyday low prices’ aimed at low- and middle-income families, Wal-Mart has expanded into developing countries, including Mexico and China. … However, Wal-Mart depends on its enormous market power to maintain these ‘everyday low prices.’ … The huge global purchasing power of Wal-Mart allows it to demand rock-bottom prices from suppliers who capture a small fraction of the total value Wal-Mart realizes. The pressure to continually cut costs, while keeping Wal-Mart profitable, also pushes down incomes and keeps working conditions substandard as suppliers specialize in low-value added production.”
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Meyerson is editor-at-large of the American Prospect. He writes in an upcoming issue of the magazine: “In 2002 the company sent [Jim Bill] Lynn to Central America, in a new position in which he was to report on any abusive labor practices he came upon in the factories that make the clothes Wal-Mart puts on its shelves. … Lynn discovered factories whose fire doors were padlocked from the outside, and where women workers were fired if they turned up pregnant. … He shot reports back to the home office. He assumed things would change. Instead, Lynn soon found that the company was more alarmed by the existence of his reports than by the substance of them. … Indeed, he believed he was doing just what the company expected of him, right up to the moment when he was fired.”
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Borosage is co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future. He said today: “If Wal-Mart’s size is a problem, its policies are a threat. Wal-Mart is the model ‘low-road’ corporation in the global economy. Its efficiency is celebrated; but its exploitation is caustic. The average pay of a Wal-Mart employee is $8.23 per hour, or an average yearly income of $14,000 — not enough to lift a family out of poverty. … But Wal-Mart doesn’t merely follow the low road; it drives its suppliers and its competitors into the same race. … In China, Wal-Mart pushes its suppliers to lower their costs, generating sweatshops in which young workers — primarily women — are forced to work grotesque hours at subsistence wages. According to the Washington Post, Wal-Mart even pressures its suppliers to pay less than the Chinese minimum wage.”
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Hayes is a senior editor of In These Times. He said today: “There’s little secret to Wal-Mart’s success. The company will simply do whatever it takes to keep workers from organizing. ‘Staying union free is a full-time commitment,’ reads one of the company’s training manuals.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167