Friday, November 13, 2009

Does Walmart Support Slavery?

I know that one of the biggest beef people have with Walmart is that products sold there are made by kids in factories in China or India. This brings up a whole other debate of whether or not we should support those kids in China or India. If we boycott the products they make, their wages may drop lower. If we continue to buy them, aren't we endorsing this practice?

It is not only Walmart that sells products made through unfair trade practices, though. If you buy the same toy made in China for $3 more at Target, you are supporting the same unfair practices. And if you buy it used from a yard sale or thrift store, it was still assembled by a child in China. Walmart is not the problem.

I have said before that I am in the top 15% of the wealthiest people in the world. Often, slaves are associated with wealth. In almost every other time, if someone were as wealthy as I am, they would have a number or slaves. But I don't have slaves, do I?

No, I hand wash our clothes and dishes. I hand roll our tortillas and pasta. There is no one doing these things for me. These are tasks traditionally associated with slaves. But slaves are doing a lot for me, whether I want them to or not.

The fact is, there are more slaves today than in any other time. Slave trade is a hot market and one that I, personally am benefitting from. You probably are, too.

Low prices on consumer goods are low because somewhere in their production, someone was not being paid properly, or at all. Even higher priced goods are often the result of someone not being paid properly.

People often blanketly blame this on Walmart. Walmart has a superior business model where they use superior buying power to offer superior prices. Other companies have copied their business model, but no one has been as successful.

Walmart did not invent greed. They did not pioneer bad treatment of laborers. They benefit from greed and bad treatment of laborers, but so do I.

I love Walmart, and have loved them long before my husband worked there. They provide low prices that allow me to have an even higher quality of life. I like that they employ the elderly and disabled as door greeters, a position they made up as a way to employ elderly and disabled people. I like their green initiatives, because they can do more to pioneer green causes than most who are pioneering green causes, because they are not on the fringe of society.

So many people attack Walmart as though they invented sin. Well, they didn't. They benefit (financially) from it's existence, just like the rest of us do. Find me a successful company that doesn't and I'll think some of this Walmart hate is maybe justified.

You cannot buy a product that is not tainted with sin. I am not saying it is not noble to try. There are a bunch of products that I will not buy for ethical reasons. I pick and choose what my money goes to, knowing that we can't fund every cause, but we can help with some causes. I am also not delusional in thinking that my money is only ever used for the good of mankind.


Anonymous said...

I can undersatnd your thinking. Most companies are purely $$ motivated and often fueled by greed.

Still I can't get behind a company that blatantly breaks U.S. Labor laws in regrads to unpaid overtime, benefits, hiring practices etc. And also has a policy of discrimination against women in both pay and promotions.

There are a lot of companies that will use labor from all over the world, yet manage to abide by all the laws in EVERY country they operate in.

Is it morally right that they use child labor, no, but it is up to the people of that country to change the law, then these companies would be forced to change there labor practices.

Jen said...

My issues with Walmart are surrounding their treatment of employees. While most stores may have some sortn of issue with child labor, Walmart has had many legal issues with forcing employees to work while off the clock, not advancing women, and not providing benefits. While I'm sure not ever store has had issues, it's enough of a reason for me not choose not to support them when in my area Target is almost always sigificantly cheaper.

Emily said...

My husband works at Walmart and has NEVER been asked to work off the clock. He was invited to join a law suit against Walmart anyway, even though they hadn't done anything to him. Most of his bosses have been female, so that may be true in some parts of the country, but not so much here. After one year of working there, he was offered full benefits, so that is a non-issue.

We have a friend who has worked at both Target and Walmart and preferred Walmart by a long shot. Maybe it is different in different stores, but Walmart has changed a lot of their labor practices and I think it's dumb to continue to punish a changed company.

natalie said...

For financial reasons I do shop at Walmart, but I try to purchase things from my local bulk Mennonite store, or order in bulk from Country Life Natural Foods (also a Christian company) instead.

I don't like that those lower prices are frequently because of cheaper materials, as well as low wages for workers. I also am troubled by slavery issues, and by the fact that they are open on Sunday. But most stores in our current situation are going to be the same, so I don't feel like I have much of a choice.

I do choose to avoid "made in China" as much as possible, for safety as well as ethical reasons. I don't trust that things from china won't have dangerous chemicals or something harmful in them, after the lead and melamine fiascos.

kayleigh said...

Kudos to you for sticking too your beliefs and defending them! I am one reader, however, whose mind will not be changed. I refuse to shop at Walmart when there are better options. Not perfect options, but certainly better.

Treva said...

I'm not a huge fan of everything Walmart does. No one is perfect, though. I know I am full of sin. I simply allow price and safety for my child to take precedence. I follow what's going on with recalled toys, medicines, and foods and do my best. I keep a pricebook and there are some items WM carries that are cheaper, but I do better with my grocery shopping at other stores.

My favorite thing at WM is their medications. My husband has a medication that is not covered by worker's comp and we pay $4 at WM for it. It actually saves us money to just buy the meds there than to pay a monthly premium for a medicare drug plan. I get my meds there as well; $9 every 3 weeks regardless of insurance. And I spent $35 yesterday on prednisone & a z-pack b/c I've got oogies from chest to eyebrows! I'm not sure we could afford those basic necessities without WM so I'm grateful.

And I think you're right about it being different from one area to another. Where I came from in VA it was HORRIBLE!!! Out here in IN I love almost every employee. They are so stinkin' nice and everyone seems happy to be there and they seem genuinely helpful and willing to take the time a customer needs when looking for something.

Amanda said...

I don't know all the ins-and-outs of conducting business at Walmart. BUT, I do know that much of the reason Walmart is able to offer such low prices to its customers is because of their ability to manage their supply chain down to the last atom, and their ability to negotiate amazing deals based on sheer volume(i.e. Walmart can guarantee Kraft and endcap spot in EVERY SINGLE STORE, so Kraft will give them rock bottom prices).

I can't say for certain where EVERY item offered at Walmart comes from, but I do know that their low prices have very little to do with child or slave labor.

I'm Lori...and maybe I'm you, too. said...

First, I like Walmart. I used to work in economic development, and know all the pros and cons for workers and the local economy, and frankly, Walmart wins by quite a bit.

But...your arguments are so flawed, I have to admit they make me re-think support of Walmart rather than shore it up. They are staggeringly headscratching.

vm said...

I recommend you see the film Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price or at least look at the website:

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mary bailey said...

I have a love/hate relationship with Wal-Mart. I love it because they have evertything I need. And I hate it because I have to go there for everything I need! :-)

Devon said...

I have a love/hate relationship with Walmart. I love the prices, of course, but hate everything else about them. You are right, though. The despicable labor practices are not something Walmart invented, and will continue as long as the other countries involved do nothing, despite whether I personally choose to boycott Walmart or not. Sigh. Hopefully someday I won't be held accountable for my involvement in it all--though of course mine is limited to simply buying things from Walmart--but I guess we'll see.

Scottish Twins said...

I don't have any more of a problem with Walmart than I do any other large corporate chain.

I have to laugh when people complain about Walmart while wearing some Nike shoes, eating a McDonald's hamburger and drinking a flavored coffee drink. Where do they think those shoes are made? Most likely in a sweatshop in China. Where do they think the food from McDonald's came from? Lots of the produce on that Big Mac was shipped over from China, where it was farmed by workers paid next to nothing. And don't even get me started with coffee fields and their treatment of workers.

It just seems to me like Walmart gets held to a different standard than other chain stores like Target.

My big beef with stores like Walmart is that they sell junk. It is wonderful that they make things that are affordable for families, but most of that stuff isn't very durable and eventually ends up cluttering our landfills. I have pretty much stopped shopping at stores like Walmart and Target and am now trying to support small businesses and people who make handmade items that are generally better quality.

Anonymous said...

I respect your opinions, but I do not agree with them this time. The comment you made about Walmart opening positions for mentally disabled and retired persons is an example - there is a very specific reason why Walmart targets certain populations to hire. These individuals are covered by Medicaid and Medicare - bonus for Walmart, no health insurance needed for these folks! Also, ingle mothers with children receiving Medicaid. Low wages from Walmart = more families eligible for Medicaid. I'm not saying that Walmart ONLY hires individuals already receiving some form of assistance, but there is a trend. Walmart is a huge corporation with the power to make a difference in society. The problem is - they don't. Going "green" is great, but that is a very small issue for them to promote, couldn't they work on issues that make a significant impact to society?

Anonymous said...

With respect to Walmart's amazing ability to negotiate rock bottom prices, I'd like to add that this is achieved through threats and intimidation. My husband used to work for a company selling goods through Walmart. "Negotiations" are done by a Walmart buyer informing the company what the price will be for the product and the company can sell at that price or there will be no deal. There is absolutely no wiggle room and vendors are forced to make cuts elsewhere (such as labor, insurance or lesser quality material) in order to meet Walmart's price.
I continue to boycott Walmart for this and their uncanny ability to drive small local businesses into the ground.

Anonymous said...

I do not support Walmart. you mentioned your husband was offered benefits after a year, but did he take them? Walmart may offer benefits but most can't afford to actually take the benefits they offer. How is that helpful?

I do respect your opinions, but do not agree on this one Emily.

Anonymous said...

Your family exemplifies the many problems with WalMart. You do not have health insurance. You live below the poverty line. And you depend on the government to subsidize the basic compensation (health care and living wage) that WalMart does not provide. Living in a tiny apartment with no health insurance, below the poverty line, but with access to cheap pumpkins is NOT the American Dream. Wouldn't it be better to pay more for your pumpkin but have an employer that allows your family to have greater economic stability (eg, to own a home and pay for your own medical).

Anonymous said...

People still drive cars, drink alcohol and smoke. Either way you look at it - nobody is perfect. Shopping at Wal*Mart doesn't make you a bad person. Drink and driving, smoking while you're pregnant or driving a vehicle... c'mon

People have views on all different subjects. Joe and Betty always think they're doing so much better than you are. I bet they're the people who let the water run while they brush their teeth too.

Anonymous said...

I shop on a very limited basis st Walmart, and try to shop at a Canadian based store like Zellers (which is unionized), well the basis is simple I am attempting to support a Canadian company pure and simple.

I also look high and low for North American made products, yes at times I do purchase items made in China, but it is not by choice.

I also do not like big box stores and try to focus my purchases on local area owned stores, and most surprisingly of all at times they are cheaper than Walmart.

I used to work at Woolco when it changed over to Walmart, the treatment of the employees was horrendous and I left. I am sure your husband is treated with respect, but that one store was horrible.

I've watched documentaries of Walmart, and believe that they are the first that started the trend of buying cheap in China.

I will not shop at Walmart, but anyone else can I know my mother does, one thing about living in Canada and the US, we can pick and choose where to shop, how to live etc. Sadly, the workers in China do not have the same rights.

Mom in Canada

Heather said...

I shop at Walmart for household and food items because I am a college student, saving where I can. With that said, I wish I could afford to shop at locally owned specialty stores and farmer's markets, if only to keep the money in my community. Supporting local businesses, especially in these hard times, is so important. If we don't keep them alive, eventually we aren't going to have any other options. Such a sad thought...

On another note, I wanted to mention something that stuck outto me. When referring to people with disabilities, you may want to look at this website

It provides information about People First Language... "People with disabilities are not their diagnoses or disabilities; they are people, first." Not to be one of those nitpicky people, but as a special education intern, I like to spread this information to the masses when approprtiate...

Ginger said...

I agree that you would be hard pressed to find a retailer, especially one that sells such a variety of products all in one place, that doesn't benefit in some way from slave labor. And with the current economic issues that effect most of us these days, I bet more and more people are turning to Walmart to purchase products cheaper in order to make ends meet. I will admit that I do shop at Walmart, even though as you will read, I do have isues w/them...we live in a small town with only one other somewhat comparable option(because I really don't consider Rite-Aid or Walgreens to be comparable) being K-Mart, which I really dislike due to horrible service, significantly higher prices, and chronically unstocked shelves, but when I go out of town (minimum of 1 1/2 hour drive away) I do choose Target and in fact have found that in at least half the cases things I'm buying are either the same price or cheaper there. The biggest problem I have with Walmart is that one of the ways they have been able to be successful is because of the health insurance issue. Your family is a perfect example of this your husband's income level from Walmart, you cannot afford the health insurance they offer and so choose not to participate. You qualify & have used the state insurance program as many Walmart families do, but have now chosen not to use that either (though I wish you did because I believe nobody, esp. children, should be w/out insurance). Your family is representative of many many Walmart employee families, a perfect example that even though we "think" we're saving by shopping at Walmart, we, as a nation, are in fact paying more either through our taxes supporting more people on Medicaid or through our own health costs which rise when many uninsured seek treatment and then are unable to pay for it. The statistics are there supporting this & its no coincidence that Walmart is a huge proponent of the new national health care initiative.

Kelly said...

This is not the only reason I dislike walmart. I dislike the way they treat their employees all the way to the top.

But I don't begrudge those who shop there out of necessity either. I choose not to in almost all the cases. The same way i choose to buy fair trade or local when I can. because I believe in those things.

Anonymous said...

And, I'm sorry, but working in corporate America, I can tell you that any company who waits a FULL year to offer their employee benefits isn't a good company. I'm not sure if that's the norm at Wal-Mart, but that's certainly nothing to be proud of.

A few facts:

As of 2008, a full time Wal-Mart Associates earns 16% less than the average retail wage. []

Despite over $12 billion in profits, President and CEO Lee Scott admits, "In some of our states, the public program may actually be a better value - with relatively high income limits to qualify, and low premiums". [Transcript Lee Scott Speech, 4 May 2005]

In 21 of 23 states where data is available, Wal-Mart forces more employees to rely on taxpayer-funded health care than any other employer. ["Disclosures of Employers Whose Workers and Their Dependents are Using State Health Insurance Programs," Good Jobs First 2007]

In October 2004, the United States Federal Government sued Wal-Mart for violating the Clean Water Act in 9 states, calling for penalties of over $3 million and changes to its building codes. ["Wal-Mart II Storm Water Settlement," EPA, 12 May 2004]

Studies in Iowa showed that some small towns lost up to 47% of their retail trade after 10 years of a Wal-Mart store moving in nearby in the mid 1990's. [Kenneth E. Stone, "Impact of the Wal-Mart Phenomenon on Rural Communities," 1997]

As of early 2008, only 26% of Wal-Mart's factory inspections are unannounced, providing managers the opportunity to coach workers on what to say and hide violations. In contrast, 100% of the audits conducted by Target, one of Wal-Mart's chief competitors, are unannounced. [T.A. Frank, "Confessions of a Sweatshop Inspector," Washington Monthly, April 2008]

In 2001, women managers on average earned $14,500 less than their male counterparts. Female hourly workers earned on average $1,100 less than male counterparts. [Drogin 2003]

And here's one in your should be proud!! Wal-Mart was also fined $205,650 for 1,436 violations of child labor laws in Maine between 1995 and 1998. The settlement represents the largest number of citations as well as the largest fine ever issued by the Maine Department of Labor for child labor violations. [Weinstein, Joshua, "Wal-Mart fined $205,650 in child labor case", March 2, 2000, Portland Press Herald]

One week of time records for 25,000 employees in July 2000 found 1,371 instances of minors working too late, during school hours, or for too many hours in a day. There were 15,705 lost meal times and 60,767 missed breaks. [Greenhouse, Steven, "In-House Audit Says Wal-Mart Violated Labor Laws," January 13th, 2004, NY Times]

Federal immigration officers, in November 2005, arrested 125 undocumented workers in a raid at a Wal-Mart distribution center under construction north of Philadelphia. The workers from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico were detained Thursday at the site. [Associated Press, 11/18/05]

I hate to break it to you, but corporations don't do a 180 overnight. Wal-Mart has done what they have to do in order to get rid of a few legal battles. It's not as though they've changed their whole inner working.

I realize Wal-Mart is a life line for many people. There are other big box stores with MUCH better practices for those who can't buy products locally. I don't judge people who shop at Wal-Mart, I realize Wal-Mart has forced out so many mom and pop stores that people in some areas really have no choice.

However, I find it terribly naive to avoid the facts. Let's not sugar (or stevia) coat it.

Andrew Wilder said...

I think Emily's point that all companies benefit from greed/sin/evil certainly has merit, and we shouldn't overlook that.

The trick is, Walmart could be considered to be *more* evil than other companies. It's all in degrees.

Yes, they've been working on improving their environmental and labor practices, and perhaps yes, they're less "evil" than the used to be. But that's completely beside the point.

How about simply BUYING LESS STUFF? That's the true solution.

Rachel said...

Well, Wal-Mart is here and it is here to stay. Everyone I know who has worked there seemed to like it. I worked at Sears for two years, and a young girl came from Wal-Mart where she was making $11.00 an hour to only making $7.25 at Sears. She said that she made the change for her college schedule, but I really could not see leaving an $11.00 an hour job for that reason alone. So, who knows?

My husband worked for a sub-contractor for Wal-mart for six years. They did the air conditioning and the freezers. He worked constantly, always on call. Wal-mart wanted him there right now when there was a problem. They would not stand for people leaving the store because the air was broken ( we live in Florida). They were losing sales if this happened. He finally quit after six years, it was just too stressful and tiring.

I do not mind Wal-mart, but I also enjoy shopping at Walgreens, Publix, save a lot. The employees at all these businesses need their jobs.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post, but like others I would suggest you look at some of the data that clearly supports that Wal-Mart is not all its cracked up to be. The fact that so many of their employees cannot afford the health insurance that is offered or need to receive assiatance to live speaks volumes about them as an organization.

I won't say I have never shopped there but I strive to not go there because in a nutshell O see them as bad for small town America. They drive out competition and don't always do well by their host communities.

In the end though we have to make decisions that work best for our families and if Wal-Mart works for you, more power to you.

Rachel said...

In households where every penny counts and/or there aren't jobs anywhere else, sometimes Walmart is the only option. Sometimes Walmart is a true necessity and that's one thing. However, it's an entirely different thing to actually defend Walmart's abhorrent business practices by saying, in essence, that it's okay because every other big business is doing it, too. Things that are morally wrong are not okay just because "everyone else" is doing it.

One other thing: for many reasons buying a used toy that was made in China is definitely not the same as buying a brand new toy made in China. Buying used keeps things out of landfills. Buying used means not supporting that company that has factories in China.

mary bailey said...

Emily, this is slightly off-topic, but I'm curious what your take on it is. I heard this morning on the radio that Wal-Mart has decided to be open on Thanksgiving Day. It's generated a lot of talk on the radio here. Some people say that WM employees deserve that day off, others say that there are workers who won't mind getting the extra hours. How do you and your husband feel?

Emily said...

Mary, my husband used to work at a ski resort where they were open on Thanksgiving and Christmas. He frequently had to work on holidays. He would get holiday pay, and would at Walmart if he worked Thanksgiving. Anyway, Thanksgiving, we decided years ago, would be a day with just us and our children. It is a day set aside to give thanks. His working on Thanksgiving hasn't changed that for us, but he's not working this Thanksgiving.

tehfanglyfish said...

The problems with Walmart and other places similar to it are structural problems. I am in no way taking the blame off of Walmart and other corporations for mistreating workers, using mistreated and under paid foreign labor, etc. However, my take on it is that governments need to step things up a bit to protect their citizenry. I don't believe that people alone can take down large corporations and I think that others agree with this sentiment since some government regulations for consumer and worker protections are already in place.

Anymore corporations rarely have their charters revoked for engaging in abusive or illegal practices. If government was more willing to police corporations (and perhaps stop accepting extremely large donations from their representatives), corporations might be a bit more concerned about their behavior.

Foreign governments should step up for their citizens as well. China has a long way to go in protecting workers from exploitative employers.

I'm not anti-business or even anti-corporation, but I do feel that abuses could be avoided if government was more willing to take on businesses who engage in bad practices.

I shop at Walmart weekly because of the price differences between Walmart's groceries and the prices at the other stores in my city. My husband and I really can't afford to shop at regular grocery stores. (And having worked at both Walmart and Food Lion, I can say that i had a better experience as an employee at Walmart.)

Finally, thanks for mentioning Target. I have encountered several people who have a very derogatory view of Walmart and seem to think they are superior human beings because they buy their cleaners, paper products, etc. at Target. It's the same thing, as you said, just slightly more expensive.

Anonymous said...

You're not a Christian. Read over your post again and tell me how Jesus might view slavery. As a "superior business model"?

Anonymous said...

I am old enough to remember when Walmart advertised that everything they sold was "made in America" then they stopped that ad campaign but kept the colors and slowly started bringing in all the made in China garbage. People were so sold on Walmart being an American company that they kept shopping there. Not me.

Blessed said...

I completely agree with Andrew that buying less stuff is the real answer--an assumption underlying Emily's original post, I am sure.

If anyone is interested, there are a few video clips I HIGHLY recommend, that talk about these same issues of injustice, fair trade, and wise consumerism--I just posted them yesterday at

This is a topic I am passionate about, and so while it is clear Emily posted this because she is defending "the hand that feeds her," I applaud her raising the issue at all, knowing that she would get some flak in the comments. And so far excellent job keeping your disagreements respectful, commenters!

Catherine at Frugal Homemaker Plus said...

I don't shop at Wal-Mart because I find that I can usually do much better on prices (with coupons) at our Kroger affiliate.

I wrote something about that awhile ago- here's the link! :)

Blessed said...

Anonymous, how is it Christian to judge someone else's Christianity?

Can you seriously "cast the first stone"? Do you know for sure that nothing you have bought this past year--coffee, clothing, shoes, etc.--indirectly caused any mistreatment of anyone?

I hate the idea of Christians mindlessly using their consumer spending (usually overspending to boot) to unknowingly support slavery, abuse, etc. overseas. But the point is mindlessness--and since Emily is thinking and weighing these issues with her husband, she is doing what she should. We cannot judge their decisions, and if you truly feel God would have issue with them, then why not pray for her, that God would help her see as He sees, for her heart to break over what breaks His heart?

He might do the same to you. I pray He does the same for me! : )

in peace and love

Anonymous said...

One good thing about Walmart is that in 2006 they donated 25,000 to support gay marriage. :)

Clisby said...

I rarely shop at WalMart, but it has nothing to do with slavery or how employees are treated. In the places I've lived, WalMarts are such ugly, trashy stores, with bottom-of-the-barrel employees. I don't like Target or Kmart either, but I don't actually cringe at the thought of setting foot in one.
For the record, I don't get criticizing Walmart because its employees qualify for government-subsidized health insurance. To me, it makes far more sense to say the government is responsible for providing health care than to say employers are.

Anonymous said...

Walmart buys life insurance premiums on their employees's and then cashes them in when they die. Dollar General is way cheaper on most items than walmart.

Anonymous said...

I recently listened to an audio book titled "Not for Sale" (would need to look up the author) and Wal Mart is not alone in benifiting from slave labor and such. I was extremely shocked to see what a problem slavery and human trafficing is today, even in AMERICA! I am bothered by these things, but we all have to do what we can financially to take care of our families and just pray about the situations that we have no control over. Interesting post......

Emily said...

Anon, yes, David Batstone's book. I haven't read it but have heard of it. There's a website,

Thanks for, I think, understanding what I was trying to say, that not buying from Walmart won't stop the slavery problem because the problem is SO much bigger than Walmart.

Jessica said...

As others have said, I dislike WalMart for far more than just the reasons you've cited.

#1 would be their terrible treatment of employees. To quote a study released in recent years over the proportion of WalMart employees receivng state aid: "Wal-Mart is imposing a significant hidden cost on Maine taxpayers," said Stacy Mitchell, a Portland-based senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. "As legislature struggles to fill the gaps in the state budget, we can hardly afford handouts to the world's largest corporation."

So not only do I pay for my share of insurance provided through my employer, but I am also supplementing the WalMart population so that the honchos at WalMart can shove more money in their pockets. Yay.

goldenangel1723 said...

Well, as a Target TEAM MEMBER I have to chime in. I would never EVER work at Walmart...I'd rather starve to death. I like to work in a CLEAN and FRIENDLY environment. And quite frankly, the only things that are more expensive at Target are better quality things. And actually I've heard a lot of guests say we're cheaper.

However, I'm not going to generalize all Targets and Walmarts. Each area has different stores. I'm spoiled at being at one of the best Targets in my state. I'm sure that there are Targets that are worse than some Walmarts.

As for the child slavery...unfortunately, most everything in today's society comes from it.

Kelly said...

BTW China doesn't have a large child labor problem like some countries do. This is often misunderstood. China has a problem with how factory workers are treated but most of them at not 8 year olds.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate where you are coming from, but I have to agree with the users who have said that your arguments are extremely flawed.

Yes, many big corporations are bad, but Wal-Mart seems to be the most sinful of them all. I chose not to shop at Wal-Mart because of their terrible treatment of employees, and they way they run out small businesses in the communities they decide to open in. I am sure not all stores are the same, and I think it is wonderful that your husband enjoys his job. I was also surprised to find out that most of his bosses are women.

However, as someone else pointed out "your family exemplifies the many problems with WalMart. You do not have health insurance. You live below the poverty line. And you depend on the government to subsidize the basic compensation (health care and living wage) that WalMart does not provide. Living in a tiny apartment with no health insurance, below the poverty line." I understand that you and your family are content and happy with this, but there are many many other people who would like to not depend on the government to compensate for the low wages. Without government assistance, they do not provide a living wage for people. There are many families out there who work full time at WalMart and would love to be able to support their family without government assistance for basic needs such as healthcare.

Anonymous said...

I used to be a Wal-Mart regular, but my local WM is in a very bad area and I now refuse to shop there after an abduction (in broad daylight), a rape, and a shooting in the parking lot. No thanks!!

Emily said...

It's interesting that most of you have more of a problem with Walmart's treatment of US employees. My husband's income is adequate for a family of five and most of his co-workers are not single-handedly supporting a family. His income puts us in the top 15% wealthiest people in the world. I definitely have a bigger problem with slave trade than I do with sub-par US labor standards.

Jessica said...

You're in the top 15% wealthiest people in the world, but you're not living in the rest of the world. You're living in the US. In the US, you're below the poverty line. Basic things like shelter, food and health care cost a lot more here. As someone depending on a Wal Mart income, I am *baffled* that you're debating people stating that they should pay their employees a living wage. Not being able to afford benefits is NOT a living wage.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to add that my husband recently got information about joining in a class action lawsuit for employees who were asked to work off the clock, along with other shady time card practices.

Also, we know a woman who had to have a leg removed who is in litigation with Walmart because they refused to let her be a greeter and instead required her to stand as a cashier. Interesting when I've seen a man in a wheeler as a cashier but they outright REFUSED to let her.

Just saying situations like those exist.


Anonymous said...

You can easily buy higher quality slightly higher costing products made in the USA. I prefer Canada, being Canadian. What people don't seem to beable to grasp is when these big corps are done driving out local stores they will jack their prices back up. It's already happening in the lower US. What will your options for shopping be then?

Anonymous said...

If you were afford benifits why did you not take them and are on goverment assistance instead? and Do you really think that being afford benifits after a year emploment is a perk? My husbands benifits started the day he was hired and the company pays for them as a perk.

Anonymous said...

I hit post too soon. The last job I had before getting married was a small company less than 75 employees. My benifits started after the next billing cycle with 32 hours of work. I would have never dreamed of not taking health insurance.

Serena said...

Emily, per your last comment, I don't think that anyone is more concerned with sub-par US labor standards than slave labor, but by focusing on that one issue you are dismissing the multiple other problems that WalMart has.

Many organizations depend on slave labor and source from sweatshops. I know I benefit from slaves, regardless of how abhorrent I may find that fact. If you chose to boycott places that use slave labor, one would be hard pressed to get most of the items they use daily at an affordable price.

Because of that, I chose not to shop at WalMart not only because they source from sweatshops, but because in addition to that, they also (historically) treat their employees awful, they do not provide a living wage, and they displace many small businesses as well as actual people when they take over a community. I don't believe that WalMart today is in line with Sam Walton's original vision of it.

I am fortunate because I live in an urban area, so there are many low cost options available to me. They are probably contributing to the slave trade just as much as WalMart, but I have the option of choosing not to go to a store that is known for their poor treatment of employees and disrespect for the communities around them. I prefer to spend money at places that provide benefits that are reasonably affordable to their workers. That said, I do not know if I would be able to boycott WalMart if that was the only store available for me to get low price options.

Serena said...

One more thing... I too am baffled as to your belief that WalMart pays a living wage. If government assistance were not available to you and your children, would you be able to afford healthcare?

Anonymous said...

"My husband's income is adequate for a family of five and most of his co-workers are not single-handedly supporting a family. His income puts us in the top 15% wealthiest people in the world."

But that's exactly the point: your husband's income is NOT adequate. If it were, you would not need government subsidized health care. You would not qualify for, accept, or budget based on the earned income credit (which is a government handout since you get back more than you pay in). You would not consider dental insurance a luxury. You would have a retirement plan. All of these are pretty basic benefits that a decent corporation provides for its workers. Your husband's employer does not and, because these are basic needs, that leaves the rest of us (and our employers) to pick up the tab through taxes.

And the fact that you are in the "wealthiest 15%" of the world does not change this. Really, Emily, you are too smart to keep trotting this out - it's about as logical as saying "well, 85% of people in my family smoke two packs/day, so if I only smoke a pack/day, I'm healthy!" The fact that others are worse off does not make your family income adequate, it just makes your situation less bad. Do you really want your children to be unable to read at age 10, lose their teeth by age 15, lose their wives in childbirth at age 20, and be dead before they're 30? That is the definition of "adequate" you are using when you choose to judge your income relative to that of people in the developing world. I can't believe someone as smart as you are, and who loves her children as much as you seem to, really thinks that this is an acceptable lifestyle for educated citizens of the first world.

Alyssa said...

A majority of these, as other stated, revolve around treatment of workers. Anyone who thinks that benefits after A YEAR is acceptable is only continuing the problem. Any company that big that has an anti-union policy is only trying to protect itself, and not allow its workers to take proper care of themselves.

When I worked at Meijers when I was 15, I was part of their union. I knew I would always be protected if a large company tried to take advantage of me. There is no reason for Wal-Mart to treat their employees the way they do, pay them as little as they payment, and offer benefits after a year other than corporate GREED. There is a fundamental problem with that attitude.

Simple in France said...

Awesome! Another brave post. I have very strong feelings about spending our money in ways that are as fair as possible and trying to do no harm. It is HARD and no one is perfect as you point out.

Also, if you think about it, since your family buys a true minimum of all the 'junk' that is made in China and elsewhere by mistreated laborers you may be contributing to the system less than someone who talks a lot about boycotting Walmart but buys a lot of junk from other places!

We might as well be honest about what we're up against or nothing is going to change--I think your post is very honest. Good for you.

Kori said...

I personally don't support Wal-Mart because of their horrible, horrible business practices; hiring part-time workers to avoid paying any kind of benefits, the practice of convinving "us" that we will live better by shopping there, when the reality is that in the ling run we actually lose money be having to replace the same items more often-because they buy from manufacturers who are using the lower quality materials to make whatever the product is. For example, if I buy my kids jeans at Wal-mart, they wear out LONG before they grow out of them, with seams tearing out or knees ripping out early. If I spend slightly more money at another store, they jeans last twice as long. Fact, at least in my house.

I also don't like the fact that when the Super-Wal Mart moved into our area, three other local businesses had to close their doors-and Wal-Mart did NOT absorb the lost employees nor did they fill those empty buildings-and of course, they are now the ONLY big store left in town, thus forcing people in this extremeyl depressed area to shop there. It's a lose-lose situation for our entire town; the only winner is Wal-Mart.

I know your husband works there, and that you shop there, and you know what? I don't really care; if it is working for YOU, then it really isn't anyone's business to criticize you for it. And just because I choose to shop elsewhere doesn't mean that I won't admit that in *some* areas I would save a little bit of money by shopping at Wal-Mart. For me, it just isn't something I personally support. However, I agree with you-we as people support a lot of really crappy industries (though I don't think of it as sin, just big business), probably a lot more than we are aware of. Wal-Mart is just an easy target becasue they are so well-known.

Gah. enough said. :) I love this blog, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Emily....Wal-mart incorporates slave labor into each and everyone of their thousands of stores daily. Wal-mart is a mult million dollar company yet they pay their employee's sub-standard salaries and benefits. Benefits are offered only after a year of loyal, dedicated performance. And you're OK with that? Wal-mart hires people with disabilites because they get a government kick back and because they don't have to worry about health ins because normally those folks are on disabilty and on medicad. Additionally, those folks can only earn a limited amount of money each month so salary is never a big concern for them, they work to compliment their monthly disability check. I have no object to that and in fact, I applaud those folks for getting up and heading out to work daily. Wal-mart makes money hiring people with disabilites, they don't do it because they're nice folks. Wal-mart runs Mom and Pop operations out of small towns, and if you pay attention, once a wal-mart moves in to a small farming community usually the entire "downtown" folds up and Wal-mart takes over. Yet, they do absolutely nothing in terms of community involvement. Wal-mart is all about the almight dollar. I can't imagine that the CEO, CFO, and upper management is without a hefty benefit package with salaries to match. Heck, Non Profits do better than Wal-mart in terms of both salary and beneifts.

Anonymous said...

I can sympathize with the general cognitive dissionance--I use to work for "Curves" which is a corporation that, IMO does some really really crappy things. But you know what? I really needed that job to help provide for DH and I (FWIW I was offered an insurance plan for just ME, from an outside vendor that would have cost $a little less than $400 a month, which was at the time, half of my salary [from Curves, not all together, I was working a couple of other jobs as well]--taking home about $1200 a month, my DH was getting anywhere from 700-1000 with his job...way to little to pay for insurance, but too much for a child-free couple to be able to qualify for medicaid)
but ANYWAY...
I needed the job, so I felt like I HAD to focus on all of the "good things" Curves did, the fact that the owners of MY curves were decent people, the fact that I had a degree in a fitnee-related feild was benefiting the women who worked there, etc. etc. But in the end I just had to stop...I couldn't work for that company anymore.
But I stopped because I was able to, because I had gotten other offers. But when I really needed the job, I don't think I could have gotten up every morning to go there if I wasn't constantly rationalizing why it "really wasn't so bad" to myself.

Anonymous said...

I cant bear to read another post. Choosing to live below poverty, having un-insured children and having the rest of working America pick up the tab of your government assistance is not responsible or acceptable. I started reading your blog in hopes of findings tips I could apply to my own life and family in order to spend less, save more, etc. But, post after post is your trying to justify your reckless parenting. Children should not be un-insured, no matter what. -Sandy

Anonymous said...

You might be in the top 15% wealthiest people for the WORLD, but you are comparing yourself to third world countries. You can't do that, that's ridiculous. The amount of $$ we spend on a loaf of bread can feed a starving child in Africa for days. To them, $10/month is amazing. I do hope you understand that your measurement standards here are very skewed.

Perhaps you should check out this link. It shows the poverty thresholds for AMERICA. Granted they are from 2008 but I doubt they have changed much.

Clisby said...

I think readers who congratulate themselves on the health insurance they get through their employers should take a closer look. The taxpayers of this country provide enormous subsidies to help pay for that private insurance. How, exactly, is that different from taxpayers directly providing Medicaid or CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program)? The U.S. system of people getting health insurance through employers is completely looney.

Kat said...

Well said Clisby, well said.

Linda said...

The employer based healthcare insurance system is completely loony and an accident of history-- but it's pretty rotten for a company to shift healthcare costs to the taxpayers ahead of national reform. I don't begrudge anyone healthcare, but I do begrudge Walmart increasing profits at my expense. That doesn't mean I judge people for working or shopping for necessities there.

People keep arguing with you when you compare yourself to the world average income, but I think this is an important thing to point out. In general, we Americans are spoiled and wasteful. Of course the cost of living is higher here, but we could still buy less crap and waste less stuff than we do. I really admire your efforts to live a simple life that is in line with your values.

Anonymous said...

I used to make the same arguments you did first (aided by the fact that my friends in high school started at $7/hour at Wal-mart vs. $5.25 for my circa 1999 fast food job). Now I see many of the points above and furthermore try to avoid big box stores whenever I can. I just wanted to say that this entry and the comments that followed (mostly non-snarky no less) really made for some interesting reading today. Sometimes being a consumer of even the most basic items feels like such a moral burden.

Kristin said...

Hey. You seem to have linked to a post of mine. Very kind of you.

My husband also works at Walmart (a former engineer, mind you) and while Walmart has the same issues as all American corporation do now, it isn't bad. And we too survive on about $1000 a month! And we eat like kings too! Have lots of family time, etc.

I've just scanned your posts a bit but am happy to see someone else living well on a little.



Anonymous said...

First of I work at Target and have worked at Wal- Mart and Target is by far the best. Everything is either cheaper or the food about 5 cents more expensive (on average) because the sell a lot of organic and higher quality foods; something that Wal-mart does not.
I work in the Pharmacy and we have $4 dollar perscriptions as well. Infact as of 11/01 we have 20 more then Wal-Mart. Please, feed your kids some nourishing food and stop being such a "snob".

Anonymous said...

I avoid buying brand new Chinese made products, not only because of their human rights issues, but also because of their horrible environmental issues. I do buy used items because my money is not directly going to support China, it is going to the local small thrift store. It does mean that we had to learn to live with less and my kids are only getting one Christmas present each. I would rather my children get one more expensive, locally made item, then several cheap items made by suffering children. I know that my avoiding MIC products probably won't make a big difference. But if EVERYONE did, imagine what a boost that could be not only to the American economy, but maybe it would also make China change it's policies. Sadly people aren't willing to give up their cheap products, so that is never going to happen. :-(


Presents said...

I'm sure this has been covered, but a lot of the Walmart hatred stems from their practice of coming into a town, lowering all their prices so much that that particular store actually loses money for a while in order to drive all the local businesses out of business. Then they are free to raise their prices, without any competition. It's a dirty technique that's only available to a huge chain store with major corporate backing. Sure, the stuff you get at Target was also make in China for pennies...but they don't go to ridiculous measures to drive all the small businesses under.

Henny said...

Walmart isn't the problem - we are. Walmart and companies like that only make money because we give it to them. the fault goes farther than just walmart.(and I'm NOT a fan of walmart) we like lots of stuff cheap. it makes us feel thrifty to get things for cheap. we value "thriftiness" as if it's some kinda Godly virtue (which it isn't - moderation is).

That said it's going to always be difficult to live comfortably (not luxuriously) without stepping on others in some way. in order that I can use a shortening to cook with I am using Palm oil (we have a lot of allergies to dairy gluten and soy - all of which are in any type of butter or butter product). I've tried other products and nothing has worked for us. it's the healthiest thing we can use for things like pie crusts. it's not terribly expensive, but certainly not cheap. it just fits without on meager budget. it also provides jobs for those in the areas of Africa and Malaysia where it is harvested. the bad? it takes over forests and kills off a lot of the local wildlife which then effects crops and the people around it. plus it's ruining what's so beautiful about this areas.

there is rarely a perfect answer b/c of how things are set up. HOWEVER if I take the time and effort to live as sustainably as my budget will allow - without undue hardship on my husband or children, and everyone else does this too, no one will be stepped on. ok so that's a perfect world scenario which I know can't and wont happen - but I will continue to try anyhow just b/c I think it's the right thing to do. sometimes you do the right thing b/c it's the right thing, not b/c it accomplishes anything of great magnitude.

Beth said...

Everyone has already made comments that are the same arguments that I have against Walmart. The one thing I have to add is this, I am choosing not to shop at Walmart because I don't agree with their morals in how they choose to treat others. I have told my children these as well and feel that if I am willing to have children, then I should teach them to do what is morally right. I would not want my children to stay friends with someone who didn't have good morals just because it was easier or cheaper than another friend. So why would I shop at one store over another that didn't have good morals as a corporation? This is just my families choice. You do what you want, but just stop and think about what you are doing and if that is something you want to teach your children. That is a rule to follow all the time, "would I want to teach my children to do this...., because it might not be a bad thing if I say it like this....?"

Rosa said...

I know I'm a tad late on the comment wagon, but I've just discovered your blog and was reading back.

I can't comment on the ethics of Walmart itself (I live in New Zealand, and know little about it), but I would like to comment on the issue of child labour in developing countries. Economics shows us that children who work only work until their families have enough for them to leave the labour force; this is true in China as it was true in America and most of the developed world 100 years ago. Often the alternatives for children when forced out of labour (usually due to foreign pressure) are far more dangerous and less favourable. The other factor here is that generally the more an economy produces the more it grows, the richer its population becomes, and subsequently children leave the workforce and go to school. It does seem awful to think of children sewing our clothes and making our toys - but at least they're not scavenging in dumps or selling their bodies to survive! If you're interested there's a bit of a rant about it here:

Sorry about the length of this comment - I just feel strongly about this topic and wanted to put a big-picture perspective on it. :-)

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