Up | November 20, 2012
>>> because we live in america and we work for the world's largest company and we are still not making it.
>> because i choose between paying my bills and having enough to eat.
>> i'm 52 years old and i can't afford my own apartment with what i make at walmart .
>> my fellow associates have to use local food pantries.
>> i'm tired of being discriminated by management.
>> we have to depend on each other check by check and borrow money from each other to make it for the week.
>> i spoke out in my store and walmart fired me for it.
>> walmart says that they do not fire people as retaliation. that's on the record. it would be illegal. heather, the context for this, to broaden this out is we have a -- one of the largest employers and kind of setting a benchmark for post labor practices, logistics, marketing practices, pricing. i guess people will say look, yeah, it sounds like it's not a lot of fun being a walmart associate but it's low wage work and walmart guarantees their customers lower prices. so, sorry, this is the way the market works.
>> we wanted to actually dig into this question. we have seen a shift, a historic shift from gm being the largest employer, an employer that helped create the middle class to walmart . is it necessary to actually have low wages in order to have low prices? that's the question. everybody says that's the trade off. we looked at the largest chain stores . if we were to -- if they were to raise the wage floor so the lowest paid worker made $25,000 a year for full time employment, a 27% raise from the typical retail worker now, what would that do? we found, the reports being released tomorrow, we found it would lift 700,000 people out of poverty. it would give 5.3 million workers a raise. and it would create 100,000 jobs. you are putting money in hands of people that are going to spend.
>> it would be a stimulus.
>> a private sector retail-led stimulus. that's great. but you want your black friday flat screen. the question is how much would it cost? the whole large chain store sector would cost $20 billion to do this kind of wage flip. how does that compare? one, it's actually less than just the top ten largest retailers spent buying back their own shares in the market last year. it's something they do to boost earnings per share . it doesn't have productivity improvements. it's good for executive comp. when it comes to consumers, right, it would be, at most, on average, 15 cents per shopping trip if they passed the entire cost of that wage increase on to consumers. so, 15 cents, less than a quarter, can the american people afford a stimulus that is going to lift the wages of 5 million people? i think we can.
>> how are you going to achieve it? you are not going to achieve it when labor markets are slack?
>> why not?
>> labor, like everything else is high. when you have high unemployment that's -- we have had slack markets. it's market theory. retailers paying their workers more.
>> they compete with other retailers. people who are small retailers become big retailers. the question that viewers have to consider that people take -- you have to have what we had, tight labor markets . that was partly because of demographics. it was also because of restricted immigration laws . what we have done, we have had essentially open immigration since the early 1970s . we have had a huge follow on baby boom and now slack markets. we have educational standards --
>> i don't understand how -- i mean we have shown that the companies can afford it. we are not talking about going back to a $50,000 a year, full pension job, we are talking a raise to $25,000 a year. the companies can afford it. when you put it on market forces .
>> companies can afford a lot of things. why should they do it?
>> it would be a benefit. it would be a benefit to retailers as well. $5 billion would go back to the retail sector. walmart customers would have more money in their pockets.
>> let me insert myself into this. it's not just, you know, the walton family on one side or the slackness on labor markets .
>> workers have power when markets are tight.
>> workers also have power as guaranteed statutorily governments and laws we pass that we ignore. that's also part of it. you have absolutely the right to engage in activity like you gentlemen are doing and not be retaliated on.
>> it's where we fit into the mix. all of that makes sense if the workers are passive and accept what is being handed to them. it's why standing up and living better, the motto of our group is so important. we are saying, look, we are people. i have -- my children ask me, why aren't you here? i can do fun things, sometimes we can't afford to rent a movie.
>> i want to talk to you about the importance of wages on one hand and autonomy after this break. some