Saturday, December 1, 2012

Walmart Workers Reflect Economy's Future

We are well on our way to becoming a third world country. And that's exactly what the corporatocrats want:

A half-century ago, America's largest private-sector employer was General Motors, where full-time workers earned an average hourly wage of around $50 in today's dollars, including health and pension benefits.

Today, America's largest employer is Walmart, where the average sales associate earns $8.81 an hour. A third of Walmart's employees work less than 28 hours per week and don't qualify for benefits.

There are many reasons for the difference - including globalization and technological changes that have shrunk employment in American manufacturing while enlarging it in sectors involving personal services, such as retail.

But one reason, closely related to this seismic shift, is the decline of labor unions in the United States. In the 1950s, more than a third of private-sector workers belonged to a union. Today, fewer than 7 percent do. As a result, the typical American worker no longer has the bargaining clout to get a sizable share of corporate profits.

At the peak of its power and influence in the 1950s, the United Auto Workers could claim a significant portion of GM's earnings for its members.

Walmart's employees, by contrast, have no union to represent them. So they've had no means of getting much of the corporation's earnings.

Walmart earned $16 billion last year (it just reported a 9 percent increase in earnings in the third quarter of 2012, to $3.6 billion), much of which went to Walmart's shareholders - including the family of its founder, Sam Walton.

The wealth of the Walton family now exceeds the wealth of the bottom 40 percent of American families combined, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.

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