Union rights and the minimum wage as issues in Ohio will not be taking a rest from debate, no matter what we read about Ohio Governor John Kasich’s plans excluding right-to-work in 2014. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren will be making sure of this, starting today with a briefing in which, reportedly, she will:
…out the retail giant for its low wages and terrible employment practices. The briefing will be held a week ahead of the nationwide anti-Walmart protests planned for Black Friday.
Why does this matter to Ohioans and why is Warren pursuing this? For starters:
Roughly 825,000 of Walmart’s hourly store employees earn less than $25,000 a year. About 600,000 Walmart workers are part-time, and many rely on food stamps and Medicaid. Walmart, the largest private employer in the US, says its average full-time hourly wage is $12.83, though OUR Walmart has calculated it as closer to $9 an hour.
Walmart has retaliated against employees who have protested these low wages. In January, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the company illegally fired, threatened, or disciplined more than 60 workers in 14 states for publicly complaining about wages and working conditions.
In addition, according to this 2013 article in the Toledo Blade, Walmart is Ohio’s largest private employer. The Blade article also provides facts that demonstrate how Walmart’s low wages result in Ohio taxpayers subsidizing Walmart:
The number of people on food stamps with someone in their household working at one of these 50 firms grew 47 percent between February, 2008, and February, 2013, to 117,890 people, the newspaper found.
During the same time, Medicaid recipients associated with these employers grew by 59 percent to 141,182 people.
Walmart’s share? In February 2013, “…14,684 employees or their household members on food stamps and 14,056 on Medicaid.”
“This is a way America subsidizes our largest employers who don’t pay people enough to make ends meet,” said Wendy Patton, senior researcher at Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal think tank. “We need to think of this [welfare, food stamps, and Medicaid] as corporate support as well as a safety-net service.”
So just how into our state government is Walmart? Here’s a downloadable spreadsheet showing the 2013-2014 contributions from Walmart to Ohio statewide and legislative candidates. Primarily Republicans, with one Democrat as well. You can go here, to Secretary of State Jon Husted’s site (he accepted a total of $6,000 from Walmart PACs between 2008 and 2010) to do a deeper dive if you like.