Walmart holds canned food drive for its low-paid workers

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Walmart in northeast Ohio is holding a holiday canned food drive ― for its own underpaid employees. “Please Donate Food Items Here, so Associates in Need Can Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner,” a sign reads in the employee lounge of a Canton-area Walmart.

Kory Lundberg, a Walmart spokesperson, says the drive is a positive thing. This is part of the company's culture to rally around associates and take care of them when they face extreme hardships, he said.

But the need for a food drive illustrates how difficult it is for Walmart workers to get by on its notoriously low pay. The company has long been plagued by charges that it doesn’t pay its employees a real living wage.

In fact, Walmart president and CEO, Bill Simon, recently estimated that most of its 1 million "associates" make less than US$25,000 per year, just above the federal poverty line of $23,550 for a family of four.

When the Washington DC city council passed a living wage bill requiring Walmart to pay workers a minimum of $12.50 per hour, the chain threatened to shut down its new stores if Mayor Vincent Gray did not veto the bill. Gray vetoed the bill.

Walmart's low wages come at a public cost. Because low-income workers still need housing and health care, taxpayers end up doling out millions in benefits to bridge the gap faced by many of the store's retail workers.

They have also led to strikes at Walmart stores from Seattle to Chicago to Los Angeles in recent weeks.

[Abriddged from Think Progress.]

From GLW issue 990