Thursday, May 04, 2006

Target v. Walmart, A Race To the Bottom

A few posts back I ranted about Walmart and America's over-consumerism (if you don't like made up words, too darn bad). I just read an article on Alternet that compares Target, the upscale box-store, to Walmart with alarmingly frightening similarities. I never would have guessed that Target was this bad:

Of more than 1,400 Target stores employing more than 300,000 people nationwide, not one has a union. Employees at various stores say an anti-union message and video is part of the new-employee orientation. At stores in the Twin Cities, where Target is headquartered, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union Local 789 has been trying for several years to help Target employees organize, with little luck.

"People ask what the difference between Wal-Mart and Target is," said UFCW organizer Bernie Hesse. "Nothing, except that Wal-Mart is six times bigger. The wages start at $7.25 to $7.50 an hour [at Target]. They'll say that's a competitive wage, but they can't say it's a living wage. We know a lot of their managers are telling people, 'If we find out you're involved in organizing a union you'll get fired.'"

Target is actually profiting from some of America's Anti-Walmart-ism. More people such as myself and some of the commenters refuse to shop there because of their negative employee treatment:

A recent study by the University of Massachusetts at Lowell showed that 63 percent of people would oppose a Wal-Mart opening in their community. Groups such as Wal-Mart Watch, several documentarians have harshly critiqued Wal-Mart's working conditions and its effects on communities and international labor standards.

It turns out these companies are pretty much the same:

A survey by the UFCW found that starting wages are similar in Targets and Wal-Marts -- possibly higher overall at Wal-Marts - and that Target benefits packages are often harder to qualify for and less comprehensive. (Target's media relations department refused to comment on its wages and benefits policies; individual wages and benefits policies are not included in their annual report.)

This article does resonate with hope and a dream and proof that my ranting may indeed be feasable:

In today's market, could retail really be any different? Fair labor advocates think so. Hesse notes that in several unionized grocery stores in the Twin Cities, hourly wages hover around $13 to $17 an hour, roughly double Target's. Now SuperTarget's sale of groceries threatens the survival of union grocery stores.

Even other major big box retailers have managed to pay significantly higher wages and achieve higher employee retention. The prices at Costco Wholesale Corp., the nation's fifth largest retailer, are competitive with those at Target and Wal-Mart, but it pays full-time employees an average of around $16 an hour along with generous health benefits.

Costco has found that treating its employees well is still profitable, and I believe Aldi's is another retailer that pays good wages while carrying off-name brands to reduce costs for consumers as well as the company.


Blogger Michele said...

Thanks for the heads up about Target. I am a huge Costco fan anyway.
It's very frustrating these days to find business that I can afford as well as feel good about.

05 May, 2006 08:08  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Such an important thing to talk about, that we don't much talk about. Great post.

06 May, 2006 11:06  

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