Late last year, in response to a series of strikes by workers and protests by activists, Walmart agreed to raise wages so that many of the company’s workers received at least a meager $9 an hour in 2015. The wage hike reached over 1,400 Walmart stores and gave the company some much needed positive publicity.
Unfortunately, Walmart’s entire business model is based on severely exploiting workers in the US and around the world to drive down prices, so even a minor uptick in wages hurts the bottom line.
As Bloomberg reports today, the order has now come down from Walmart executives to store managers to cut workers’ hours to lower company costs. So while many workers may have seen a pay increase from the rise to a minimum wage of $9 an hour, those same workers may now face a cut in the hours they can work to make the higher wage.
This could easily put those workers back into poverty (if they were not already) and continue Walmart’s disgraceful practice of externalizing its labor costs onto society by pushing their poorly compensated workers onto public services. Walmart does find it acceptable to have its workers compensated, as long as they are not the ones paying.
According to a report from Americans for Tax Fairness, Walmart’s failure to pay its workers a decent wage costs US taxpayers $6.2 billion [PDF] a year. Walmart’s low paid workers often qualify and use public services like food stamps, medicaid, and subsidized housing despite working hard for one of the most profitable companies in the world.
In fact, Walmart is so profitable that the heirs of the Walmart fortune have become some the richest people in the world solely through inheritance. An analysis by the Economic Policy Institute concludes that “the Walton family wealth is as large as the bottom 48.8 million families in the wealth distribution (constituting 41.5 percent of all American families) combined.”
And with Walmart executives clawing back the puny increases in worker compensation by cutting hours, the Waltons can expect to keep their place at the top.