This opinion is in response to the article in Monday’s Nexus about Wal-Mart (“Film Exposes International Effects of Wal-Mart Empire,” Daily Nexus, Nov. 14). I wanted to share some additional information and also publicize additional free screenings of the movie on our campus.
First off, before I disclose some of the most shocking and disturbing truths about the evils of Wal-Mart, I want to announce that there will be a free film screening of “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price” here at UCSB both Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Embarcadero Hall and Thursday at 6 p.m. in Chemistry 1171.
OK, now on to the good stuff, or maybe I should say the really, really bad stuff. Just to clarify in case anyone tells you otherwise, Wal-Mart is probably one of the biggest and scariest contributors to globalization, exploitation of workers and mistreatment of women in the world.
Products sold in Wal-Mart stores are made by millions of predominantly young women in factories that pay poverty-level wages, have forced overtime work, routinely cheated workers out of pay, continuously increased quotas without pay, and created dangerous working environments for people.
One example of the extreme measures Wal-Mart engages in is having women working in Guatemalan factories, which produced for Wal-Mart, were illegally forced by their bosses to take pregnancy tests prior to and during employment. Women who work in Wal-Mart factories sew sleeves onto shirts at the rate of 1,200 garments a day, two shirts a minute, one sleeve every 15 seconds, all for only $35 dollars a week. Another fact, not as overt but still unfair, is that 92 percent of Wal-Mart clerks, which is the lowest paid position in Wal-Mart, are women.
On top of Wal-Mart’s discrimination Wal-Mart against women, workers at a Wal-Mart supply factory in the Philippines are forced to work 15-hour night shifts from 4 p.m. to 7 a.m. Its international practices are far worse than anything in the U.S. and they probably contribute to more sweatshop labor than Nike, GAP, Adidas, and Puma combined. It has a budget greater than the entire country of Egypt and still has one of the biggest pay gaps between senior managers and on-the-ground workers.
What’s so scary about Wal-Mart, besides the deadly and abusive effects it has on people? I think one of the scariest things is that so many of us are bought into it despite its problems. There is a National Week of Action against Wal-Mart this week and it is important to let everyone know that the Week of Action is not asking everyone to go out and boycott Wal-Mart immediately. We need and want Wal-Mart to change for the better, that is the message of this week. We want people to first know about the evils of Wal-Mart and then pressure the company to be fair and just in the way it treats both its employees and people around the world.
There are also a lot of good things about Wal-Mart that I know we all appreciate. We like the fact that the prices are low for the goods we buy, we like that Wal-Mart provides many jobs to people who live in low-income neighborhoods, we want and need people who can’t afford high-priced goods to have a place to go, etc. However we know Wal-Mart can do better. There is no need to have low prices and low wages for everyday workers when senior management is making 10 times as much. There is no need to provide lots of jobs in poor neighborhoods at the expense of putting local businesses out of work. There is no reason to have a discount retailer sacrificing morals for prices and bottom lines.
Wal-Mart bargains are based on low wages and exploitation, which create poverty and leave workers across the developing world jobless or committed to near-slave labor. Not only does Wal-Mart’s poverty-level wages and insufficient benefits force thousands of employees to resort to Medicaid, but many workers also need food stamps and housing assistance. In the U.S., this costs the citizens $1.5 billion a year, the so-called “Wal-Mart Tax.” This goes to show that Wal-Mart affects all U.S. citizens, not just those employed or who consume.
So come to the film screening, and check out the rest of facts and stories about Wal-Mart. If nothing else, you can hear first-hand stories from real people about how Wal-Mart has affected their lives, in both good and bad ways… but mostly bad.