Wal-Mart has employed millions of people over the past fifty years. The first Wal-Mart, employing just a handful of people, was opened by Sam Walton 1962. Now, Wal-Mart employs 2.2 million associates (Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. 4). Wal-Mart is under fire for paying entry-level employees market wage for their work. Market wage (minimum wage or slightly higher) is the price of labor determined by the labor market. Is Wal-Mart hindering employees from achieving the American dream or is the retail giant a victim of mud-slinging? The American dream is a citizen’s ability to amass wealth and prosper through hard work, determination and initiative. Social activist, Patrick Stall, explains his viewpoint on wages at a recent protest. Wal-Mart’s work force will be analyzed to determine if employees are paid fairly. Lastly, a critical perspective of high school educated Americans living expectations will be examined to help understand their ability to succeed.
The interpretation of this evidence clearly supports the conclusion: Wal-Mart is not responsible for an individual’s failure to achieve the “American dream”. In order to live in this post-recession era, American consumers are tightening their budgets and fighting for higher pay; incidentally, many hunt for someone to blame for their lost American dream. Activist and working-class citizen Patrick Stall rallies consumers against Wal-Mart during a fair wage protest. “We want to raise awareness to Wal-Mart’s customers, and also bring it to the forefront and attention of Wal-Mart’s management, that Wal-Mart is systematically pushing down wages in the United States for American workers” (qtd. in Klingseis 1). In this statement, Stall acknowledges the issue of fair wage and attempts to gain supporters. Addressing both customers and management at once, Stall strengthens the divide between Wal-Mart’s managers and employees. Furthermore, he declares that the American people, as a whole, are at risk of lower wages due to Wal-Mart.
As Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the world, this seems like an understandable conclusion. Wal-Mart has incredible influence on its suppliers, it certainly may have an effect on wages in general. After police broke up the protest, Stall continued, “I think the fact that Wal-Mart has to have police come just to defend their property . . . it says that they don’t respect free speech . . . they don’t respect the right of working people to speak out in favor of worker rights” (qtd. Klingseis 1). Here, Stall asserts that a Civil Liberty violation has occurred. Stall’s statement vilifies the retailer, saying Wal-Mart needs to fight dirty. Stall has effectively indicted Wal-Mart as a threat to the American way of life. To completely understand Stall’s claims, critical analysis of his statements is required. Cutting through the clutter, his first statement claims that Wal-Mart is responsible for wage trends in the United States. When Stall’s statement is viewed in this light, it is easy to see the hazy generalization being made. Wal-Mart’s internal practices concerning their employees has no effect on American wages as a whole. They are not responsible for wage fluctuation, be it positive or negative, in the United States economy.
Stall’s second statement concerns Freedom of Speech. He elicits all Americans to realize this issue is directly affecting them, violating their constitutional rights (Madison 1). This argument is also flawed. Stall’s assertion fails to recognize that an unauthorized protest on private property is not a violation of freedom of speech. Stall admits that the protesters were on private property; furthermore, they didn’t have permission to protest there. Wal-Mart requesting police supervision doesn’t show violation of constitutional rights, it shows a corporation’s desire to protect itself and its customers from liability that could possibly result from the protest. Reviewing the factual evidence shows that Stall’s accusations lack substance. Stall uses wishful misconceptions to gather consumers to his bandwagon. This is a powerful example of how propaganda is used to lead uniformed people against Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart pays entry-level employees’ market wage. This is a constant source of resentment held by employees. Wal-Mart is the world’s largest private business. Its revenue base is larger than many small countries. Surely, this corporate Goliath should pay more than minimum wage to employees. Kory Lundberg, spokesperson for Wal-Mart states, “Most of Walmart’s minimum-wage workers are in entry-level positions” (qtd. in Weissmann 1). An entry-level position is defined as a position requiring little skill and knowledge; therefore, it is generally of a low pay. Entry-level positions are not meant to be careers. These positions usually involve little stress and few responsibilities. Examples include: restocking shelves, working cash registers and changing prices. For most individuals, these jobs are stepping-stones to provide work experience. This experience can be used to obtain a non-entry-level position.
Doug Altner, analyst at Ayn Rand Institute states, “…the company offers incredible opportunities for any hard-working, ambitious person who wants to work his way up in retail. Three out of four Walmart store managers started out as hourly associates, and those managers can earn up to $170,000 per year” (1). In a capitalist society, fortune is earned by effort, perseverance and improvement or development of new skills, not by stagnant mediocrity. This is a harsh reality for individuals believing that sweeping floors and helping customers will achieve the American dream. Critically inspecting the wages made by high school educated individuals and the lifestyle they choose to live, reveals an economical train-wreck on slow motion. “Although 50 percent of Americans in a recent study admitted to spending more than they earn, only 10 percent said they were living beyond their means” (Kavoussi 1). As our society becomes more educated, the monetary divide between social classes expands.
Making a living with an entry-level position is very difficult; nevertheless, the expectation lower class individuals to have an upper class lifestyle endures. Michael I. Norton, Professor at Harvard Business School explains that “the expansion of consumer credit in the United States has allowed middle class and poor Americans to live beyond their means, masking their lack of wealth by increasing their debt” (1). This unrealistic lifestyle eventually delivers many individuals into bankruptcy or homelessness. Unfortunately, there is no way to easily tell individuals that they may be unable afford luxury cars and vacations working an entry-level positon. Many individuals in this situation also don’t want to admit this reality to themselves.
In this self-destructive pattern, the affected lose sight of “why” and “how” their poor situation happened and place blame on the easiest target: The machine of Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is not the destroyer of dreams and families; ignorance and complacency are. Wal-Mart adequately supplies unskilled labor with secure jobs at a fair market wage. The majority of college graduates and students will say nothing comes easily, you have to work for your dreams. The underlying desire for the American dream is valid. The sobering truth is the ability to amass wealth and prosper through hard work, determination and initiative doesn’t mesh with maintaining an entry-level, non-skilled job. Blame only masks the truth some individuals choose to hide from: The world is what you make of it, not what you think you deserve.
Altner, Doug. “Why Do 1.4 Milloin Amweicans Work At Walmart, With Many More Trying To?” 17 11 2013. http://www.forbes.com. Article. Kavoussi, Bonnie. “Money.” 18 5 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com. Article. Klingseis, Katherine. “The Des Moines Register.” 23 December 2014. http://www.desmoinesregister.com. Article. Madison, James. “U.S. Constitution – Amendment 1.” 1789. Document. Norton, Michael I. “Living Beyond your means When You’re Not Rich.” 20 5 2011. http://www.nytimes.com. Article. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. “History” 2015. http://corporate.walmart.com. Article. Weissmann, Jordan. “Wlamart Says It’s Phasing Out Minimum Wage Pay.” 16 10 2014. http://www.slate.com. Article.