Labor

5 Ways Walmart Has Stooped to New Lows This Month

Animal cruelty, lying about taxes and firing whistleblowers—all in the name of profit.

Photo Credit: trekandshoot / Shutterstock.com

Profiting off its new uniform policy. Faking a state sales tax. Abusing animals to promote soda. These are just some of the ways the world’s largest private employer has stooped to new lows this month. Here are five developments that expose the extent of Walmart’s greed.

1. Walmart set to profit off workers from its newly imposed dress code. Last week, we reported that Walmart may make nearly $80 million by forcing its U.S. employees to pay for new work uniforms. Walmart sent a notice to its employees saying they have until September 29 to purchase the clothes to adhere to the dress code. It recommended workers go to Walmart (surprise!) to shop for their new uniforms. 

Walmart-branded vests are the only part of the uniform the corporation will be paying for. But even those come at a price to workers. One U.S. Walmart worker sent Gawker a photo of the vests which reveals that they were “Made in Jordan.” This is despite the fact that Walmart promotes a “Made in USA” campaign and has a history of horrendous labor conditions in Jordan.

In 2006, Jordanian sweatshop workers making clothes for Walmart said they were forced to work 20-hour days, weren’t paid for months, were hit by their supervisors and jailed if they complained. Five years later, conditions had not improved. A new report found female employees alleged being sexually assaulted on a regular basis and some workers were forced to sleep in bed bug-infested dormitories without heat or water.

2. Walmart fires workers who exposed the company selling expired food. While we’re on the topic of Walmart’s poor treatment of workers overseas, this week, the corporation fired workers in its China stores who claimed Walmart was selling expired food to its customers. The four workers alleged that the company was selling rice infested with insects, and cooking expired meat using old, black oil. The whistleblowers released videos exposing this food inside their store last month. Bloomberg reports that Walmart has been undergoing a public relations battle around food safety in China. So while the corporation tries to cut corners by selling rotten food, it’s also making sure to send a chilling message to workers who threaten its profit margin with bad press.  

3. Walmart lies about a state “sugar-tax” to explain prices to customers. When customers at a Walmart in New York saw that their 12-pack of soda rang up $3.50 at checkout when it was advertised for $3, they asked what was up. Employees were told to tell them that the 50-cent difference was part of a state-imposed sugar tax. Problem is, there is no such tax.

Despite numerous complaints, Walmart kept lying and sold more than 60,000 12-packs at the inflated price. But it didn’t get away with trying to blame the state. The NY Attorney General stepped in, and this week, the state settled with Walmart over the false advertising claims. Walmart was forced to pay penalties and was tasked with creating better policies to deal with customer complaints concerning prices.Perhaps, number one should be, stop lying?  

4. Walmart harms animals for advertisement. Walmart will apparently jump through any hoop to make sure it’s selling soda. This week, a Walmart in Mexico held a cockfight in its store in order to promote a soda company. Animal rights activists raised alarm after they saw photos of the cockfight on social media. Walmart has until September 24 to provide a defense or it could face a fine.

Meanwhile, a Walmart spokesperson provided this pathetic justification: “It wasn’t a cockfight.… There wasn’t anything that would be in violation of any game regulations.” Bloomsburg reported that he added “the roosters weren’t armed with blades, no betting took place at the store and no birds were harmed.” Roosters not armed with blades? Always high standards Walmart. Always.

5. Walmart is even greedy with charity. So Walmart doesn’t care if it forces its workers, who already receive low wages, to purchase clothes to adhere to its new dress code. It doesn't care about the working conditions for those making the new clothes. It doesn't care about lying to customers or using animals for promotional entertainment. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the greedy giant doesn’t care about charity either.

A new report from Making Change at Walmart, a campaign anchored by the United Food & Commercial Workers pushing to improve working conditions at the corporation, found that the Walton family gives a measly amount of their money to charity. Compared to the other top richest Americans, the four heirs’ charity contributions are laughable. For example, while Bill Gates gives about nine percent of his net worth to charity, Christy Walton, the sixth richest American, gives 0.04 percent. Jim Walton, the seventh richest American, gives 0.00004 percent.

Mother Jones pointed out that the average American family has a net worth of $650,000 per household and contributes on average $3,000 to charity each year. (The median American household net worth is about $70,000). Meanwhile, each Walton heir, on average, has a net worth of $36 billion, and on average, give a mere $730,000 to charity. Compare these rates of giving, and you find that your average American family is 230 times more generous than a Walton heir. Don't worry Walton family, might as well live up to the Walmart slogan "Save money, live better."  

Alyssa Figueroa is an associate editor at AlterNet. 

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