Wal-Mart, Living Wages, and Food Stamps

Several years ago my husband and I chose to no longer shop at Wal-Mart because of the unfair and unethical labor practices of many of their producers overseas; sometimes paying their sweatshop workers mere pennies a day to work in monotonous, unsafe working conditions. It is not a secret that many of these sweatshops are in China. Wal-Mart’s biggest supplier, China, exported $18 billion in goods to Wal-Mart alone in 2004 (Wal-Mart’s China Inventory).

As of the 2010 fiscal year, the 8,416 Wal-Mart stores worldwide produced just over $405 billion dollars in net sales – more than any other corporation. The company’s gross profit margin has been on the rise for the last five years, coming in at 24.8%, and net sales also continue to increase.

Walmart Living Wages Strike

Photo: International Business Times

With numbers like these, you’d think Wal-Mart’s employees would receive some sort of shared benefit. But instead of enjoying the success of their employer, the majority of Wal-Mart’s employees face wages falling below the poverty line and less-than-adequate healthcare.

I was recently directed to this short video from Slate.com, which discusses the wages of these workers, food stamps, and their affect on our economy:

As the co-founder of Seven Hopes United, a fair trade organization, I am openly passionate about living wages for all people, whether they are producers overseas, or workers right here in our local Wal-Mart. I’d love to have a discussion about this article – either here on the blog or on Facebook. What are your thoughts?

Do you think it’s fair to ask Wal-Mart to raise their prices so their employees are making living wages, so they no longer require the support of food stamps? What are your thoughts on Wal-Mart’s low prices, and the fact that a large percentage of their employees are living under the poverty line? Do you think Wal-Mart should be taking responsibility for the well-being of their employees? Would you be willing to pay more so that their workers are being paid fairly?

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