Nearly two years since the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh that killed over 1,100 people, Walmart continues to refuse to sign any international agreements that would ensure worker safety in its sweatshops, Ming Chun Tang reports for Media Roots. As Tang notes in the article, “Walmart’s Predatory Profit Model: Low Prices With a Heavy Cost,” the collapse at the factory, which produced garments to be sold by Walmart, occurred because of a lack of building standards.
Like other large companies with globalized production chains, Walmart exploits workers outside of the United States, but the consequences of these exploitative practices impact everyone. In the U.S., social and economic pressures force Walmart employees to accept low wages. The percentage of people whose only job is a minimum wage job is growing, partly because as the largest companies consolidate, they knock out smaller companies and family-owned businesses. Minimum wage jobs hardly support an individual, let alone a family, so minimum wage employees often rely on taxpayer-supported welfare programs in order to survive. Effectively, Walmart forces taxpayers to make up for what they will not pay its employees, despite the fact that the company’s richest leaders would remain quite rich even if Walmart raised all its employees’ wages. Walmart’s slogan–“Save Money, Live Better”—is, in fact, a false statement: Although customers may pay less in the store for Walmart product, they end up paying more in taxes to make up for what Walmart refuses to pay, and they arguably end up living worse because of the corrupted system. Those people working in foreign countries where laws do not protect their safety in the workplace are not “working better” either, especially when they are paid a mere fraction of what workers in the United States are paid.
No major news sources are reporting just how big of an impact Walmart has on the nation. When corporate media covered the Bangladesh disaster, they often failed to report Walmart’s affiliation with the factory. Instead, they blame the country of Bangladesh for letting it happen. There is no mention of the power and influence Walmart has over its foreign investments, nor does this coverage typically address international agreements that would improve working conditions for workers in factories that subcontract with corporate firms like Walmart. Tang’s article gives readers a big picture view of the impact of Walmart and other such companies, details the impacts of these practices overseas and macro-level influences they have within the U.S. He points out the hypocrisy that Walmart flashes about with its most recent slogan. When consumers buy into Walmart’s slogan, they take advantage of the “low prices” without understanding exactly what extra costs go with them. As Tang shows, these costs are beyond money; in fact, they are costing the world its humanity.
Source: Ming Chun Tang, “Walmart’s Predatory Profit Model: Low Prices With a Heavy Cost,” Media Roots,. October 1, 2014, http://www.mediaroots.org/walmarts-people-above-profit-model-low-prices-with-a-heavy-cost/.
Student Researcher: Devon Waslusky (Saginaw Valley State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Emily J. Beard-Bohn (Saginaw Valley State University)