So, what do you do when your favorite political party desperately scrambles to maintain its image among voters as the party that will protect you against all enemies, terrorists, and bogeymen while its war of choice wallows in the rising tide of futility? You declare that your political opponents are engaged in warfare of their own making; class warfare!
"The Dems have actually stepped (sic) their class warfare campaign by taking on Wal-Mart," is the proclamation at the right-leaning Bullwinkle Blog. The writer makes much use of an article by Sebastian Mallaby that appeared in the Washington Post. Mallaby's article accuses the Clintons (of course), Joe Lieberman, Evan Bayh, Tom Vilsack, and others of abandoning their supposedly centrist positions in support of globalization in favor of bashing Wal-Mart. Bashing Wal-Mart, naturally, is presented in Mallaby's article an affront to the average working American; "The nation's most successful retailer, which has seized the opportunities created by globalization to boost the buying power of ordinary Americans, is now seen as too toxic to touch." See that? – Globalization means more buying power for YOU! ...and those nasty Democrats are against increasing your buying power!
If you found Bullwinkle's commentary entertaining, check out what Herman Cain at Townhall.com has to say. According to Mr. Cain, many prominent Democrats have defected to a new party called the "Hezbocrats." "The Hezbocrats risk a huge political backlash by drawing horns and a tail on Wal-Mart's trademark yellow happy face," warns Mr. Cain. He then proceeds to boast that, "In January, 25,000 people applied for 325 available jobs at a proposed Wal-Mart store outside of Chicago." 25,000 applied for 325 jobs? Man, that paints a bleak picture as to what the average American job seeker is up against.
If our right-wing friends want to know what drives anti-Wal-Mart sentiment, then perhaps they should address a couple of critical issues relating to Wal-Mart that they conveniently ignored in their posts, specifically:
1) Wal-Mart's widespread practices of making employees work off the clock for no pay (a.k.a. slavery) or the denial of overtime pay for overtime worked.
2) Wal-Mart's penchant for employing illegal aliens under abusive conditions.
Wal-Mart's activities relating to these two points are what gets them singled out among the "big box" retailers. Cain glibly asks, "They say that Wal-Mart treats its employees poorly, but who is complaining?" Who is complaining? Well, let's see...
"'We Czechs are willing to sacrifice and work hard, but we definitely weren't earning enough money,' said Pavel, 33, in a telephone interview from the Czech Embassy before he was deported last Friday. He said he received $380 in cash for his 56-hour workweeks. That came to $6.79 an hour, and he did not receive time-and-a-half for overtime," reported Steven Greenhouse in the New York Times.
"The way they pay you, you cannot make it by yourself without having a second job or someone to help you, unless you've been there for 20 years or you're a manager," said Wal-Mart employee Jennifer McLaughlin in an article in Mother Jones by Karen Olsson.
"Ella Hereth of the advocacy group Jobs with Justice, tells Christianity Today that Wal-Mart is the 'poster boy for corporate exploitation,'" writes Jeff M. Sellers in a piece for Christianity Today. "[Hereth] ticks off the complaints: low pay, scant benefits, race and sex discrimination, and profiting from mistreated workers in foreign 'sweatshops.'"
Now, there are arguments to be made regarding whether or not stock clerks or cashiers need to be paid much more than minimum wage. I've worked retail for minimum wage. It sucked. To be fair, I lived at my parent's house at the time and, thus, the argument could be made that I didn't really need to earn a living wage as the money I was earning went primarily to the expansion of my CD collection and beer and pizza on week-ends. That said, I was never mistreated by my employer. I received overtime pay and time-and-a-half on Sundays. I didn't have to compete with illegal aliens for my minimum wage paycheck. Thus, I never complained about my situation.
There are reasons why Wal-Mart routinely gets singled out for criticism. Wal-Mart regularly engages in breaking labor laws and immigration laws. Attacking Wal-Mart's critics for taking Wal-Mart to task for violating these laws is, itself, an act of class warfare as the obvious intent is to protect Wal-Mart's unlawful exploitation of labor at the direct expense of those who arrive at Wal-Mart's doors every day ready for work.
Wal-Mart: Always low wages, Always...
Image from Tarraccas Obremski.