Economic Growth and Wal-Mart
Leave it to the genius of Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott Jr. to identify the source of the poor morale among Wal-Mart “associates” (Feb. 24). It’s not the minimum-wage pay, lack of benefits, the repeated labor law violations by the company, or the take-no-prisoners attitude of management that would rather close stores than accede to workers’ demands for decent compensation. No, the real source of his workers’ poor morale is the union activists who are so impolite as to point these things out!
Scott is obviously losing sleep worrying that if he paid his workers more than their poverty-level wages, “their gain would come at the expense of average Americans who need to improve their standard of living.” What a caring human being.
What is so new about Wal-Mart’s use of lower prices and perhaps lower wages that drive many other retailers out of business? The growth of the economy has always depended on development of ways of producing products and services at lower-than-previous labor cost. This past growth has depended on replacement of labor with machinery and on more efficient use of labor. With respect to wage rates, no business firm has a legal or moral obligation to set wage rates agreed to by a labor union.
There’s no question Wal-Mart attracts its share of critics. Even CEO Scott was surprisingly upfront in acknowledging that recent disappointments continue to make Wal-Mart a better company. But is it fair to pin so many of society’s ills on Wal-Mart? Business can’t shoulder the burdens alone in improving living standards or fixing what’s wrong with our healthcare system.
As a business owner who has added over 200 jobs since becoming a Wal-Mart supplier four years ago, I can speak to Wal-Mart’s immensely positive effect on my operation. Our region will be better served if we can find a way to honestly debate the roles of government and business in spurring economic growth instead of pinning all the blame on a company like Wal-Mart.