Though Walmart (NYSE:WMT) just reclaimed the title of top U.S. company on the Fortune 500 list, the company continues to get bad press from regulators, watchdog groups and its own employees. In fact, many of its full-time working moms will spend this Mother’s Day on duty at the retail mammoth’s many stores, receiving unsubstantial wages and hoping their next government assistance check arrives on time.
A Huffington Post report on one mother’s struggles working for Walmart highlights the chasm between its employees and the top executives at a company bringing in $444 billion annually. The story of Charlene Fletcher, a California resident who works the phones at a Pasadena Walmart, is especially telling. Fletcher and her husband work full-time but cannot afford to care for their two children. Instead, they must rely on government assistance for food and medical benefits.
While Fletcher earns above the California minimum wage of $8 per hour, her $9.40/hr lands her squarely in the category of working poor (she earns less than $1,500 monthly after taxes). Stacked up against CEO Michael Duke’s annual take of $35 million a year, the moms working at Walmart this Mother’s Day have a reason to be disgruntled. However, it’s only one example of the proliferation of low-wage jobs in post-recession times…
Job data released over the past month reveals college-educated workers fared much better during and after the recession. At the same time, the middle-wage jobs (in which workers earn $14 to $21 per hour) largely disappeared, only to be replaced post-recession by jobs paying between $7.25 and $14 per hour. Many of the same jobs lost returned as lower paying jobs, while others disappeared entirely. Jobs for skilled workers have shown sluggish growth, while retail and food service jobs have increased.
Naturally, budget stores like Walmart and fast-food chains continued to sell during the recession, when cash-strapped families had little choice but to buy necessities at the lowest prices. The trend continues, as it always will for stores offering customers the best prices on goods. It is Walmart’s deals with suppliers and its ability to keep expenses low (by paying low wages and offering minimal benefits) that have made the company #1 on the Fortune 500 list.
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