Originally published on October 10, 2014, at NationofChange.org
Despite rising income and sales figures, Wal-Mart announced plans on Tuesday to terminate health benefits for 30,000 part-time employees at the end of the year. Majority shareholders and heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, the Walton family refuses to provide a living wage to their workforce who requires public assistance in order to survive. Endorsing international slave labor, Wal-Mart purchases inventory from a food conglomerate that routinely commits human rights violations against unpaid and abused workers.
In a blog ironically titled “Providing Quality Health Benefits for Our Associates,” Wal-Mart Senior Vice President Sally Welborn declared America’s largest retailer will no longer provide health benefits to part-time employees working less than 30 hours per week. In 2011, Wal-Mart cut benefits for new associates working less than 24 hours per week. And in 2012, the corporation ceased offering coverage to new employees working less than 30 hours per week. But starting on January 1, 2015, all associates working less than 30 hours will be affected.
Wal-Mart joins Home Depot, Target, Trader Joe’s, and Walgreens in dropping health benefits for part-time employees despite increases in net income and sales. In Wal-Mart’s most recent quarterly filing, the company reported $4.09 billion in net income and $119.3 billion in net sales. That is a growth of 2.8% from last year’s $116.1 billion in net sales.
In February, Wal-Mart estimated health care costs to be approximately $330 million for the fiscal year. Due to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, Wal-Mart now expects an increase of $170 million in health care costs. Currently, Wal-Mart’s cheapest plan costs employees as low as $18.40 per paycheck, but next year the cost will rise to $21.90. Employees losing their Wal-Mart coverage will now be eligible for government subsidies on Obamacare exchanges.
Wal-Mart’s low-wage employees cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $6.2 billion in public assistance including food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing. A single Wal-Mart Supercenter costs taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.75 million per year. Capturing 18% of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) market, Wal-Mart admittedly accounts for $13.5 billion out of the $76 billion in food stamp sales last year.
Adding insult to injury, the Walton family boasts a net worth of $144.7 billion. Exploiting multiple legal loopholes to avoid estate tax, the Waltons have retained their fortune by adroitly evading social responsibility.
“The whole tax structure since I came to Congress actually has gotten more and more unfair,” admitted Rep. James McDermott who has sponsored unsuccessful bills attempting to close estate-tax loopholes.
While business tycoons like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have given 36.2% and 26.9% of their respective wealth to charitable causes, the Waltons have merely donated 0.04% of their fortune. In contrast to America’s richest family, the average middle class person earning a salary between $50,000 and $99,000 contributes 6% of their discretionary income to charity.
As Wal-Mart continues to exploit its own employees, the giant retailer also purchases massive amounts of shrimp linked to international slave labor. Both Wal-Mart and Costco purchase shrimp from Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, the world’s largest shrimp farmer. CP Foods feeds its farmed shrimp with fishmeal purchased from suppliers that own or operate fishing boats manned with slaves. Against their will, slaves endure 20-hour shifts, regular beatings, torture, and execution-style killings aboard these boats.
“I thought I was going to die,” said Vuthy, a former monk from Cambodia who had been sold from captain to captain. “They kept me chained up, they didn’t care about me or give me any food… They sold us like animals, but we are not animals – we are human beings.”