Wal-Mart: What a Bargain!

Seventy million people shop at Wal-Mart each week. On one fall
day in 2002, the Wal-Mart sales total exceeded the GNPs of 36
countries. Wal-Mart grossed $244.5 billion in sales for 2003.

A typical employee’s hourly wage is $8, with a standard 32-hour
workweek. The company’s voluntary health coverage plan would suck
up nearly three months of wages, at $2,844 a year; employees would
still pay a deductible.

More than two-thirds of Wal-Mart’s employees are women. Less
than 10 percent hold management positions, average for a company in
1975. A class action sex-discrimination suit is pending.

Half of Wal-Mart’s U.S. employees qualify for food stamps.
Wal-Mart employees compose the largest single group in the state of
Washington’s low-income health program.

A 250,000-square-foot supercenter with a 16-acre parking lot
will produce 413,000 gallons of storm runoff for every inch of
rain. Each year, such a lot would dump 240 pounds of nitrogen, 32
pounds of phosphorus, and 5 pounds of zinc into local watersheds
while creating heat islands.

Once Wal-Mart stifles its competition in a region, it
consolidates its holdings by vacating many of its stores. To limit
competitors in the future, the leases of these dark Wal-Marts
prevent them from being used for retail. Other uses for these
massive windowless structures are limited.

As of February 2004, Wal-Mart possesses 371 dead stores. Half of
these buildings have been vacant for at least two years, and 21
percent have not been used for at least five years. Over that time,
the number of dead Wal-Marts has risen 38 percent. Meanwhile,
Wal-Mart opens a new store every 42 hours.

But we can have a say. On April 6, the Los Angeles suburb of
Inglewood voted down an initiative to let Wal-Mart build a 60-acre
shopping center there without the environmental or traffic reviews
or public hearings required for most major development projects.
Despite a million-dollar campaign, the initiative lost, 7,049 to

From Terrain (Summer 2004). Subscriptions: $15 (4 issues) from
Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, CA 94702;

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