Up Against the Wal-Mart

I'd like to take a moment to wish all Wal-Mart employees across Ohio a very "Happy Thanksgiving." Some of my constituents are employed by Wal-Mart, and because I care deeply for them I felt compelled to write this article.

As I read the news this morning, I came across a story that was titled: "Ohio Wal-Mart Runs Thanksgiving Food Drive for Employees." At first glance, one may think such a gesture is honorable and a good display of the holiday spirit. But does anyone see the irony here? A place that is stocked with food in almost every aisle is asking its employees to donate food so their co-workers can eat. Now, if Wal-Mart really cares so much for its employees, why not pay the employees a decent wage so they can buy their own food? And in the meantime, why hasn't Wal-Mart donated the millions of cans of food on its shelves to the employees in need?

The lack of concern for employees shouldn't come as a surprise given the fact that this billion-dollar corporation keeps its workers under 35 hours so we taxpayers can pay for their health care and food stamps. Wal-Mart should be ashamed for asking the thousands of hard-working employees to put canned goods into a bin for each other, when the aisles are filled with the food and goods that could make a feast for employees this Thanksgiving.

At its core, this is an issue of income inequality and justice for those at the workplace. It is a disgrace that six of the Walton family members are worth more than $93 billion, yet the average Wal-Mart store employee makes much less than the national poverty level.

A recent study concluded of all the companies in Ohio, Wal-Mart has the highest number of employees on public assistance. Of the 50,000 Wal-Mart employees and dependents, almost 13,000 are on food stamps, and 15,000 on Medicaid. What part of the American dream can the employees of this giant "welfare queen" expect? The Waltons, America's wealthiest family, knows they are exploiting their workers, and all at the cost of American taxpayers. Wal-Mart wants its employees to take care of one another while everyone else foots the bill for health care, food and housing assistance.

Last year during the Thanksgiving season, Wal-Mart associates bravely spoke out and rallied on Black Friday to protest the company's low wages and poor labor practices. And on cue, the retail giant's management illegally harassed and even fired employees who participated in the protests. Thankfully, the National Labor Relations Boards found that Wal-Mart's actions broke the law, but it is yet another example of the company's ill treatment of their workers.

Whether it's shifting corporate responsibility to provide for their workers onto the taxpayer; refusing their workers the right to organize; or denying associates the opportunity to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with their families, the Walton family empire has shown time and time again a shocking lack of respect and human decency toward its employees.

While Wal-Mart is certainly not the only corporation to mistreat its workers, as the nation's largest private employer they lead by example. And, I am sure come Thanksgiving dinner time, none of their employees will be including the Walton family in the list of things for which they are thankful.