Downward pressure on wages

The problem laboriously presented by the UC Berkeley researchers in their study of Wal-Mart's effects on retail wages and benefits isn't so much the percentage of loss as what it indicates: a general decline rather than advance in worker wages throughout the US, since the dim beginnings of the Trilateral Commission more than 30 years ago. Off-shoring of US industry in search of cheaper wages has produced Wal-Mart, a cancer on the American economy that peddles cheap foreign junk produced by workers elsewhere who could not survive in the US economy even if they shopped only at Wal-Mart. We have provided the weblink for further reading. Below, find the executive summary of the UCB study. For the poetry on the subject, go lower for a passage from Joe Bageant's Deer Hunting With Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War, where you will find familiar character types involved in the destruction of living wages rather than the numerical description of the theft. We've heard Bageant's book is available at local bookstores. Studs Terkel, reflecting on this book, wrote, "It is maddening and provocative that the true believers in 'American exceptionalism' and ersatz machismo side with those stepping all over them ..."

Badlands Journal editorial board

UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education
A Downward Push: The impact of Wal-Mart stores on retail wages and benefits
Arindjarbit Dube
T. William Lester
Barry Eidlin

Executive Summary

Empirical evidence suggests that employees at Wal-Mart earn lower average wages and receive less generous benefits than workers employed by many other large retailers. But controversy has persisted on Wal-Mart's effect on local pay scales. Our research finds that Wal-Mart store openings lead to the replacement of better paying jobs with jobs that pay less. Wal-Mart's entry also drives wages down for workers in competing industry segments such as grocery stores.

Looking at the period between 1992 and 2000, we find that the opening of a single Wal-Mart store in a county lowered average retail wages in that county by between 0.5 and 0.9 percent. In the general merchandise sector, wages fell by 1 percent for each new Wal-Mart. And for grocery store employees, the effect of a single new Wal-Mart was a reduction of 1.5 percent reduction in earnings.

When Wal-Mart entered a county, the total wage bill declined along with the average wage. Factoring in both the impact on wages and jobs, the total amount of retail earnings in a county fell by 1.5 percent for every new Wal-Mart store. Similar effects appeared at the state level.

With an average of 50 Wal-Mart stores per state, the average wages for retail workers were 10 percent lower, and their job-based health coverage rate was 5 percentage points less than they would have been without Wal-Mart's presence.

The study addressed a number of methodological issues that have plagued previous attempts to assess of Wal-Mart on local labor markets...Further, we investigate (and reject) the possibility that wage declines were an artifact of changes in demographics of the retail workforce...Overall, the results strongly support the hypothesis that Wal-Mart entry lowers wages and benefits of retail workers ...

Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War
Joe Bageant

Members of the business class, that legion of little Rotary Club spark plugs, are vital to the American corporate and political machine. There is where the institutionalized rip-off of working-class people by the rich corporations finds its footing at the grassroots level, where they can stymie any increase in the minimum wage or snuff out anything remotely resembling a fair tax structure. Serving on every local governmental body, this mob of Kiwanis and Rotarians has connections. It can get that hundred acres rezoned for Wal-Mart or a sewer line to that two-thousand-unit housing development at taxpayer expense. When it comes to getting things done locally for big business, these folks, with the help of their lawyers, can raise the dead and give eyesight to the blind. They are God's gift to the big nonunion companies and the chip plants looking for a fresh river to piss cadmium into--the right wing's can-do boys. They are so far right they will not even eat the left wing of a chicken.

Nevertheless, there are people in the business class even more right-wing and more dangerous: the failed pickle vendors. The millionaire wannabes. Talk about misplaced anger. This guy is pissed off that the gravy boat is never passed toward his end of the table. Take my dittohead friend Buck...He believes in the American Dream as he perceives it, which is entirely in terms of money. He wants that Jaguar, the big house, and the blonde ... At age thirty-nine and divorced, he still believes that's what life is about and is convinced he can nail it if he works hard enough. The sports car, the Rolex, McMansion, the works.

In any other era, Buck might have won the game. But not this time. These days the geet is siphoned off long before he sees it, sucked up by the rich sons of Bush oil men and the rest of the new class of financial kingpins...Bucks finds that there's no room for him at the trough. He is not part of the (local old-money families) ...And when, after kissing these people's asses all his life, Buck allows himself to realize that it's never going to happen, he turns nasty, breaks bad on the world. He had the right stuff and deserved to be wealthy, so somebody else must be to blame. It must be the welfare bums. It must be all of those taxes for "social programs for minorities" code for "throwing money at blacks and Mexicans." Or tax-and-spend liberals. Or "big government." It can't possibly be because of the rich elites, because, dammit son, rich is what Buck is trying to be! -- pp. 45-46.