Save Money. Live Better. Right… fat chance. Walmart’s motto is as misleading and false as the smile its door greeters flash as they welcome customers to the retail giant’s 8,500 stores. As Dante said, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” Walmart’s crimes are well documented; from mistreating pregnant workers to firing those who speak out against the company’s poor working conditions, the largest overall employer in the U.S. (and biggest employer in 25 states) has a reputation for being a social beast and economic bully.
Walmart is bigger than ExxonMobil, General Motors, and General Electric. It’s the world’s largest company, a behemoth retailer whose scale and reach is almost impossible to absorb. According to Business Insider, Walmart’s 2.1 million full-time employees is seven times the population of Iceland. Statistics suggest Walmart sells in three months what Home Depot sells in a year. In 2009, it had $405 billion in revenue, making it the 23rd largest economy in the world, and bigger than Sweden’s. Walmart is powerful, a corporate entity on its own plane, but, as the saying goes, “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” So what are the real costs behind those everyday low prices? Here are 10 things Walmart doesn’t want you to know.
1. Walmart is a Deathtrap
Las Vegas, 2014: Five people are killed when attackers open fire in a Walmart, declaring, “This is the start of revolution.” In 2008, a Walmart worker is trampled to death when an out-of-control mob storms a Long Island store on Black Friday. Marry Jane Robbins, a married mother of two, fatally wounds three people with a Phillips head screwdriver at a Denver-area Walmart as she fights with shoppers over the store’s last 85-inch Samsung 4k definition television. In 2011, a woman is stabbed at a South Carolina Walmart, and the store receives intense criticism for staying open following the attack. So how many people die in Walmart each year? It’s impossible to say. That’s the sort of information Walmart doesn’t want you to know.
2. Walmart Mistreats Pregnant Workers
Labor conditions are atrocious at Walmart, but in 2014 the world’s largest private employer sunk to a new low. Walmart was sued twice for mistreating pregnant workers. Candis Riggins filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming she was forced to work in unhealthy conditions. Riggins was made to work with harsh bathroom chemicals, told she couldn’t sit down when Walmart made her a door greeter after her doctor recommended light duty, and was eventually fired for taking sick days.
According to Ellen Eardley, a partner at the law firm Mehri & Skalet, “Walmart has made only the bare minimum of accommodations for its pregnant workers. Its policy accommodates women with disabilities caused by pregnancy, but in practice Walmart does nothing to accommodate the vast majority of pregnant women who are healthy, yet still may need a temporary change in duties.”
3. Walmart Plays a Huge Role in Outsourcing American Jobs Overseas
Walmart is accelerating the loss of American jobs to low wage countries. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Walmart’s motto was “Buy American.” Today, more than 50 percent of its merchandise is imported from China; in 2003 alone, Walmart purchased one-eighth of all Chinese imports to the U.S. Only sweatshop labor can provide the type of low cost merchandise that Walmart sells. In order to keep costs low, Walmart bullies the companies it does business with into sending jobs overseas. How can it be bad to have a bargain at Walmart? According to Charles Fishman, “by shopping at Walmart, we are shopping our way straight to the unemployment line.
4. Walmart Profits From Making Employees Pay for New Uniforms
Talk about economic injustice. In August, Walmart workers learned they would be forced to buy new uniforms to comply with the company’s revamped dress code. “The pride we take in our appearance should make us feel good when we help customers,” wrote Walmart HR executive Barbara Simone. The workers spoke out, telling management they couldn’t afford the new $50 uniforms. Management responded by telling the workers to buy the uniforms at Walmart, where they could save money (and no doubt Live Better). Making Change at Walmart crunched the numbers and found that Walmart could make up to $78 million by forcing employees to pay for new uniforms.
5. Walmart Steals Millions in Wages
It’s bad enough that Walmart pays poverty level wages. However, in its quest for a better bottom line, the corporate behemoth has been accused of not paying wages at all. In 2002, 39 class action lawsuits were filed against Walmart claiming millions of dollars in stolen wages. According to Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, 200,000 workers were forced to work through unpaid breaks or off the clock without pay, resulting in $150 million in stolen wages. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Walmart agreed to a $21 million settlement after paying warehouse employees in California less than minimum wage for over a decade.
6. Walmart Creates Propaganda Campaigns
OUR Walmart is a collection of Walmart workers who organize strikes and fight for better working conditions. In 2014, leaked documents and presentations revealed that Walmart has a counter-propaganda campaign aimed at its managers. The campaign attempts to convince managers that unions are bad; in one leaked presentation, corporate Walmart wrote sample opinions for managers to use at team meetings such as: “I think unions are a waste of money” and “Unions just want to hurt Walmart.” The mega-retailer favors misinformation and suggests that managers tattle on employers who want to join OUR Walmart. These coercive scare tactics are similar to the ones used by the East German Stasi.
7. Walmart Fools the Public into Thinking it Cares
Despite being hell-bent on world domination, Walmart tries to fool the public into thinking it cares by hyping an array of feel-good campaigns. Similar to its “Save Money. Live Better” motto, Walmart launched the “Fight Hunger, Spark Changes” campaign in 2010. The irony is that Walmart workers use $300 million in taxpayer money for food stamps. In Ohio, nearly 15 percent of Walmart employees are on food stamps; in fact, food insecurity is so bad that one Ohio Walmart held a food drive at Thanksgiving for its workers. And it’s not just food stamps. A study by the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce found that a 300-employee Walmart costs taxpayers between $904,542 to $1.75 million in various subsidies. In other words, Walmart doesn’t take care of its impoverished employees; we do.
8. The Jade Helm/Fukushima Conspiracy
In April 2015, Walmart announced it was closing five stores nationwide for six months because of plumbing issues. As soon as news hit the Internet that the superstore was shuttering shops, conspiracy theories rolled in faster than Stanley Kubrick could stage the moon landing. In Texas, where two of the five Walmarts are temporarily closing, there was chatter that the megastores were being appropriated as government military training bases, an operation referred to as “Jade Helm,” an exercise some conspiracy theorists believe is a dry run for martial law. “A Walmart would make a perfect FEMA detention facility,” ranted one overzealous Internet prepper. “See ya in the camps!” Another theory claimed the five Walmart stores were being decontaminated after receiving radioactive food from Fukushima.
9. Walmart Illegally Fires Workers
In an effort to snuff out protests and worker strikes, Walmart illegally fires employees. In 2014, the National Labor Relations Board charged Walmart with illegally firing 19 workers who rallied for better working conditions. The complaint is still under review. In a separate case, federal officials claim that Walmart illegally fired, disciplined, and threatened more than 60 employees in 14 states for participating in protests against the company. Walmart has a long history of quelling worker activism, and it insists that its actions are legal and justified. Barbara Collins, an activist fired for joining a strike by the non-union labor group Our Walmart, disagrees: “We have the right to speak out, and Walmart fired me and my coworkers illegally.”
10. Walmart Discriminates Against Women
According to the National Organization of Women, females made up the majority of Walmart workers in 2013 – roughly 57 percent. Nevertheless, female workers are often underpaid, underrepresented, and given little opportunity for advancement.Dukes vs. Walmart is the largest class action gender discrimination lawsuit in U.S. history. 1.5 million women accused Walmart of discrimination. In 2011, the U.S. Supreme court issued a 5-4 decision in favor of Walmart, claiming: “Even if every single one of these accounts is true, that would not demonstrate that the entire company operate[s] under a general policy of discrimination.”