Walmart Clocks Wall
Since 1991, Walmart has not carried music albums marked with the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA’s) Parental Advisory Label (although it allows R-rated movies and video games rated “Mature”), although it carries edited versions of such albums, with obscenities removed or overdubbed with less offensive lyrics. In one example in 2005, Walmart rejected the original cover of country singer Willie Nelson’s reggae album, Countryman, which featured marijuana leaves, in an apparent pro-marijuana statement. To satisfy Walmart, the record label, Lost Highway Records, issued the album with an alternative cover, without recalling the original cover. Walmart has never carried Marilyn Manson albums, solely because of the controversy surrounding Manson’s music, but recently began selling Nine Inch Nails albums after rejecting them for years. In 2009 Green Day refused to make an edited version of their album 21st Century Breakdown for Walmart, with frontman Billie Joe Armstrong claiming “You feel like you’re in 1953 or something”, thus the album is not carried by Walmart. However albums carrying the label can be found in Canadian Walmart stores, for example.
Walmart Clocks Wall
On October 23, 2003, federal agents raided 61 Walmart stores in 21 United States states in a crackdown known as “Operation Rollback”, resulting in the arrests of 250 nightshift janitors who were undocumented. Following the arrests, a grand jury convened to consider charging Walmart executives with labor racketeering crimes for knowingly allowing undocumented workers to work at their stores. The workers themselves were employed by agencies Walmart contracted with for cleaning services. Walmart blamed the contractors, but federal investigators point to wiretapped conversations showing that executives knew some workers did not have the correct documentation. The October 2003 raid was not the first time Walmart was found using unauthorized workers. Earlier raids in 1998 and 2001 resulted in the arrests of 100 workers without documentation located at Walmart stores around the country.
Walmart Clocks Wall
Economists at the Cato Institute say that Walmart is successful because it sells products that consumers want at low prices, satisfying customers’ wants and needs. Walmart’s critics say that Walmart’s lower prices draw customers away from smaller Main Street businesses, hurting local small-town communities. Critics also say that Walmart is hurting the United States economy because of excessive reliance on Chinese products. Walmart is the largest importer in the United States in many categories such as electronics and fast-moving consumer goods. The 2006 book The Wal-Mart Effect by business journalist Charles Fishman contains much of the criticism, though it also enumerates Walmart’s positive impacts within society.
Walmart Clocks Wall
In 2005, developers demolished the long-closed Dixmont State Hospital in Kilbuck Township, Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh, with plans to build a shopping complex anchored by a Walmart. While there were initially no general objections to the Walmart store itself, many residents did not want to see Dixmont demolished, despite the fact that the Dixmont complex, having been abandoned in 1984, was beyond maintainable condition and teenagers were dangerously trespassing onto the property on a regular basis. However, while the land was being excavated (after the hospital complex was torn down) in order to create a plateau for the store to be built upon, a landslide occurred covering Pennsylvania Route 65 and the Fort Wayne Line railroad tracks between PA 65 and the Ohio River. Both routes were shut down for weeks. While Walmart did “stabilize” the landslide, many residents said that Walmart merely stabilized the hillside so that it could continue with work to build the store. Ultimately, in 2007 Walmart decided against developing the site, allowing the land to return to nature, with a Walmart location to be constructed in nearby Economy, Pennsylvania instead next door to the Northern Lights Shopping Center and scheduled for a 2013 opening.
Walmart Clocks Wall
Walmart has been accused of selling merchandise at such low costs that competitors have tried to sue it for predatory pricing (intentionally selling a product at low cost in order to drive competitors out of the market). In 1995, in the case of Walmart Stores, Inc. v. American Drugs, Inc., pharmacy retailer American Drugs accused Walmart of selling items at too low a cost for the purpose of injuring competitors and destroying competition. The Supreme Court of Arkansas ruled in favor of Walmart saying that its pricing, including the use of loss leaders, was not predatory pricing. In 2000, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection accused Walmart of selling butter, milk, laundry detergent, and other staple goods at low cost, with the intention of forcing competitors out of business and gaining a monopoly in local markets. The case was settled out of court. Crest Foods filed a similar lawsuit in Oklahoma, accusing Walmart of predatory pricing on several of its products, in an effort to drive Crest Foods’s own company-owned store in Edmond, Oklahoma out of business.
Walmart Clocks Wall
In 2003, Mexico’s antitrust agency, the Federal Competition Commission, investigated Walmart for “monopolistic practices” prompted by charges that the retailer pressured suppliers to sell goods below cost or at prices significantly less than those available to other stores. Mexican authorities found no wrongdoing on the part of Walmart. However, in 2003, Germany’s High Court ruled that Walmart’s low cost pricing strategy “undermined competition” and ordered Walmart and two other supermarkets to raise their prices. Walmart won appeal of the ruling, then the German Supreme Court overturned the appeal. Walmart has since sold its stores in Germany.
Walmart has been accused of allowing undocumented workers to work in its stores. In one case, federal investigators say Walmart executives knew that contractors were using undocumented workers as they had been helping the federal government with an investigation for the previous three years. Some critics said that Walmart directly hired undocumented workers, while Walmart says they were employed by contractors who won bids to work for Walmart.
In 2011, Walmart stopped providing health insurance for part-time employees working under 24 hours per week. In 2013, health insurance benefits will not be available to employees who work fewer than 30 hours per week. Experts in labor and health care observed that the change will shift the burden of providing health care for Walmart employees to the federal government, as eligibility for Medicaid has been expanded under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or ACA). An analysis of Walmart’s health plans as compared to plans offered in the ACA’s health insurance marketplaces found that Walmart’s plans have larger networks of providers than most plans in the marketplaces, and that gross premiums (before accounting for tax credits) are less expensive under Walmart’s plans.
Walmart has been criticized for its policies against labor unions. Critics blame workers’ reluctance to join the labor union on Walmart anti-union tactics such as managerial surveillance and pre-emptive closures of stores or departments who choose to unionize. Walmart states that it is not anti-union but “pro-associate,” arguing that its employees do not need to pay third parties to discuss problems with management as the company’s open-door policy enables employees to lodge complaints and submit suggestions all the way up the corporate ladder. In 1970, Walmart’s late founder Sam Walton resisted a unionization push by the Retail Clerks International Union in two small Missouri towns by hiring a professional union buster to conduct an anti-union campaign. On the union buster’s advice, Walton also took steps to show his workers how the company had their best interests in mind, encouraging them to air concerns with managers and implementing a profit-sharing program. A few years later, Walmart hired a consulting firm, Alpha Associates, to develop a union avoidance program.
While Sam Walton was alive, Walmart had a “Buy American” campaign, but it was exposed shortly after he died that signs saying “Buy American” were on bins of Asian made products. Yet by 2005, about 60% of Walmart’s merchandise was imported, compared to 6% in 1984, although others estimated the percentage was 40% from the beginning. In 2004, Walmart spent $18 billion on Chinese products alone, and if it were an individual economy, the company would rank as China’s eighth largest trading partner, ahead of Russia, Australia, and Canada. One group estimates that the growing United States trade deficit with China, heavily influenced by Walmart imports, is estimated to have moved over 1.5 million jobs that might otherwise be in America to China between 1989 and 2003. According to the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), “Walmart is the single largest importer of foreign-produced goods in the United States”, their biggest trading partner is China, and their trade with China alone constitutes approximately 10% of the total United States trade deficit with China as of 2004.
Walmart has been criticized for not providing adequate supervision of its foreign suppliers. It has also been criticized for using sweatshops and prison labor. In 1995, Chinese dissident Harry Wu charged that Walmart was contracting prison labor in Guangdong Province. Walmart said it did not use prison labor. There have also been reports of teenagers in Bangladesh working in sweatshops 80 hours per week at $0.14 per hour, for Walmart supplier Beximco. The documentary film Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price shows images of Walmart goods-producing factories in poor condition, and factory workers subject to abuse and conditions that the documentary producers considered inhumane.
On November 24, 2012 a fire in a Bangladesh clothing factory resulted in the death of 112 workers. Survivors said that fire extinguishers did not work, an exit door was locked, and that when the fire alarm went off, bosses told workers to return to their sewing machines. Victims were trapped or jumped to their deaths from the eight-story building, which had no fire escapes or exits. Initially Walmart said it could not confirm that it had ever sourced apparel from the factory. However photos taken by Bangladeshi labor activists showed Walmart-branded clothing present in the factory after the fire. Walmart later said that a supplier had subcontracted work to the factory “in direct violation of our policies.” However, on December 4, documents revealed that at least five supplier companies had been using the Bangladesh factory to provide apparel for Walmart and its subsidiary Sam’s Club during the past year. It was also disclosed in a November 24, New York Times article that officials who had attended a 2011 Bangladesh meeting to discuss factory safety in the garment industry said that the Walmart official there had played the lead role in blocking an effort to have global retailers pay more for apparel to help Bangladesh factories improve their electrical and fire safety.