No matter the deity you choose to call your buddy, the holidays are a time for giving. It's when communities around the world come together to help each other out; the communal warmth and sharing getting everyone through another cold winter. It's when clothes are dropped off at shelters, canned goods are stacked high into boxes, and stores reserve a spot outside for the red-clad Salvation Army rep to clang their bell and ask for change. It's also a time for big corporations to get into the positive PR side of the ledger by becoming a conduit for food donations that will, ultimately, go to feed the needy.
Walmart, always in the market for some good press, is getting in the spirit of the holidays this year by holding their own food drive. But this one, well, it's a little different. Rather than sending donations to a local shelter of some sort, a Walmart store in Cleveland is asking customers to donate food items to another group in desperate need of help: Its own employees.
Outside of the store is a plastic bin with a sign declaring, "Please donate food items so associates in need can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner." The reaction, as you'd imagine, isn't exactly in tone with the request:
"That Wal-Mart would have the audacity to ask low-wage workers to donate food to other low-wage workers -- to me, it is a moral outrage," Norma Mills, a customer at the store, told the Plain Dealer.
It's easy to understand why people are upset with this, and it has nothing to do with greedy employees whining for a hand out. Instead, it has to do with this statistic that coldly closes out the afore-linked report:
Wal-Mart turned a profit of $15.7 billion last year.
Maybe Walmart should, oh I don't know, use a small portion of those profits to give their own employees a wage where they're not relying on donations to eat! Maybe, much like they did recently when Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, take $1 million or so -- or, .006% of their profits from last year, if you want to get fancy with your numbers -- and put them back towards the people that are toiling away, creating those profits in the first place?
This is just the latest example of a disconnect between a big corporation and its employees. Last July, McDonald's released a document to its employees entitled "Practical Money Skills Budget Journal," which sought to help out its workers by offering advice on how to live off their paychecks. The number one piece of advice McDonald's gave? Get a second job.
McDonald's, it should be noted, brought in over $5.5 billion in profits during the 2012 calendar year.
"ªPerhaps it's good news, then, that these two examples have actually become news in the first place, with public sentiment landing pretty handily on the side of the workers. Maybe the negativity will force them to begin paying their workers an actual living wage. Then again, if public outrage merely stops with a few harshly-worded blog posts and links on your Facebook page -- and not by actually, you know, no longer giving them your money -- the message will most likely be lost among the billions and billions of profits.
So, until these corporations stop forcing their employees to survive on such meager income, maybe it's best to find another place to shop.
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