Wednesday, November 05, 2003

The Wonders of Wal -i- World

Latest in a long string of recent articles about Wal-Mart. This one about the foreign workers imported into the country, working seven days a week without a day off, then kicked out of the country.

The "up"side
The use of illegal workers appeared to benefit Wal-Mart, its shareholders and managers by minimizing the company's costs, and it benefited consumers by helping hold down Wal-Mart's prices. Cleaning contractors profited, and thousands of foreign workers were able to earn more than they could back home.
And the downside:
But the system also had its costs — janitors said they were forced to work seven days a week, were not paid overtime and often endured harsh conditions. Foreigners got jobs that Americans might have wanted. And taxpayers sometimes ended up paying for the illegal workers' emergency health care or their children's education in American schools.
And of course, there's no workers comp:
One night, he recalled, a co-worker sliced his hand open on a floor-scraping blade and was rushed to a hospital in Red Bank. He had problems paying the $800 bill because his job did not provide health insurance and his employer shunned the workers' compensation system. The hospital swallowed the cost.
(Actually, we, the taxpayers, covered the cost that should have been borne by Wal-Mart.)

But then there's the bottom line
Robert, a Czech who runs a Web site to attract Eastern Europeans to janitorial work, said using foreign cleaners was good for Wal-Mart and for American consumers.

"No American wants to do this job," he said. "If they hired Americans, it would take 10 of them to do the work done by five Czechs. This helps Wal-Mart keep its prices low."
And low prices are what America's all about. Of course, we could always get rid of the minimum wage entirely. And while we're at it, maybe we should re-institute slavery. That would keep the prices really low.

Here's another good Wal-Mart web page: Wal-Mart Watch, sponsored by the UFCW.