For most human beings it is enough to earn a living-wage that allows the worker to provide their families with adequate food, shelter, an education, healthcare, and still be able to put away something for retirement and maybe a vacation; if their job allows time off. Sadly in America, those days, like “living wage” jobs, are vanishing nearly as fast as the wealthiest one-percent is increasing their obscene wealth. Now, very few working Americans despise the outrageously rich because of their wealth, but after seeing their wages, retirement, and once-typical healthcare benefits spirited away to increase the wealthy’s riches, many Americans rightfully harbor contempt for the rich. What is curious, really, is why a preponderance of low-wage Americans mired in poverty due to slave wages, especially in the Southern United States, are avid supporters of Republicans who work for the wealthy and against the poor and middle class.
For the past three years President Obama has appealed to Republicans in Congress to raise the woefully inadequate minimum wage that has elevated America to the top spot among the world’s economically developed nations with the highest percentage (over 25%) of citizens earning below poverty wages. Chief among Republican donors fighting against raising the minimum wage is the Walton family that owns Walmart and more wealth than 40% of Americans. As typically greedy “one-percenters,” 40% of America’s wealth is not enough for the Walton’s or their investors so Walmart took steps to increase their riches by taking more from their horribly underpaid workforce and subsequently American taxpayers; particularly those living in “Blue” states who will have to take up the slack.
It is not that Walmart is hurting for profits, the company is regarded as “wildly successful” according to its own “corporate fact sheet.” It states that “for the fiscal year ended January 31, 2014, Walmart increased net sales by 1.6% to $473.1 billion and returned $12.8 billion to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases. Walmart ranked first on the 2014 Fortune 500 list of the world’s largest companies by revenue. world’s largest companies by revenue” However, being the world’s largest revenue generator, in great part due to poverty wages, is not nearly enough for the Walton family, corporate executives, and shareholders, so the company decided to cut healthcare coverage for its part time employees, and raised premiums by an astounding 19% for the rest of the very substantial Walmart workforce. For a Walmart worker earning the federal minimum wage and paying for the lowest cost employee health plan, the premiums will rise $22 every two weeks; or about three hours of work.
Walmart has not attempted to conceal its intent, and raging success, at “creating a business empire based on slave-wage labor” where most full time employees require taxpayer-funded food stamps, healthcare, and housing assistance just to survive. In fact, in 2013 a congressional study reported that because Walmart opposes paying a living wage or providing employee benefits to its underpaid workforce, the cost to American taxpayers will rise to at least $900,000 per store location in 2014 to cover the cost of food stamps and other federal and state aid. Currently, Walmart boasts it operates over 4,800 store locations in America with more on the way, and the cost to taxpayers to subsidize its poverty wage policy is a stunning $4,320,000,000 annually. It is why Republicans, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, ALEC or any one of the many Koch brothers’ legislative arms vehemently opposes raising the minimum wage. How else could they assist the “world’s largest company by revenue” earn an added $4,320,000,000 annually in direct welfare payments from American taxpayers? It is a number that is certainly going to increase not that the company’s employees are either losing their healthcare or watching their premiums increase.
One might think, for a minute, that the answer is for Walmart employees to mobilize and strike for higher wages or unionize, but the company has every bit as notorious a record of suppressing workers’ rights as it does paying slave wages and profiting from taxpayer-funded payroll subsidies, healthcare, and nutrition programs. In fact, if Walmart is not summarily terminating employees who, out of desperation, demonstrate for higher wages and working conditions, it is closing entire stores that unionized. Of course, Republicans have actively forbidden Walmart, or any other employees, from unionizing in America, but Republicans do not wield power over foreign government’s labor laws.
When a Walmart store’s employees voted to join a union in 2004, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) was ‘certified’ as the employees’ representative. Within six months and just prior to an arbitrator was due to impose a collective agreement, Walmart shut down the store and summarily terminated all employees. In America Republicans, ALEC, the Chamber of Commerce, and Koch brothers would have bestowed a national award, and likely more taxpayer largesse on Walmart, but Canada, like nearly all civilized nations on Earth, has labor laws the almighty Walmart violated the and the government duly prosecuted.
They are the kind of laws America actually has in place, but unlike the rest of the world, one political party goes to any length to assist its wealthy donors to violate labor laws and actively threaten employees who even think about joining a union or going on strike for higher wages. It is not that this government’s National Labor Relations Board is afraid of prosecuting Walmart for violating workers’ rights for unlawfully terminating, disciplining, or threatening employees for going on strike, demonstrating for higher wages, or dog forbid attempting to join a union, because they certainly are. It is just that Republicans in the states and federal government are obstructing labor law enforcement and making serious threats to abolish the NLRB while they cut the agency’s funding. It is, after all, why the Walton family, Walmart executives, and shareholders religiously donate to Republicans.
One often wonders exactly how much wealth it will take to satisfy the Waltons of America, or how much more they will take from their employees who are solely responsible for the company being “ranked first on the 2014 Fortune 500 list as the “the world’s largest company by revenue” that allowed the company to reward shareholders to the tune of nearly $13 billion; it is unclear how many tens-of-billions went straight into the Walton family’s offshore bank accounts, but it was likely very substantial and tax free. There was a time when wildly successful businesses shared with employees, but that was before republicans, the chamber of commerce, the Koch brothers, and wall street became openly hostile to labor and decided that the best time to take from employees is when company profits rise. It is the American way and sadly it is here to stay because Americans are working too long and hard to find time to vote.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.