Holiday hell in Bentonville

By | December 17, 2006

This season, all hell breaks loose for the world’s largest retailer. A one-and-a-half year old union-backed group called Wake Up Wal-Mart is embarking on a PR offensive to point out Wal-Mart’s misdeeds to the general public. These include cutting costs by lowering wages and diminishing benefits like health care, exploiting illegal immigrants, discouraging unhealthy people from working at Wal-Mart, forcing employees to work in an unsafe environment, and – the group alleged – breaking child labour laws.

Some of the accusations might smack of sour grapes, even if there is a certain element of truth to it. According to Chris Kofinis, the communications director for Wake Up Wal-Mart, “the average Wal-Mart worker will have to work 1,000 years to make what Lee Scott made last year”.

To be fair, Wal-Mart is not a unique example. In Singapore, it would take a private-sector middle-age manager drawing a S$10,000 monthly salary an entire year to earn what ministers earn in just one month. Except that for Singaporeans who earn much less (and I suppose there are many), they may have gotten used to such a mindboggling income gap.

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