Walmartians, a popular term in use today, are devoted fans of a bottom-dollar deal for all the things they need and the things they think they need. In the 1980's, the local Walmart was a blessing for my Mom who lived on single Mom budget. We were Walmartians through and through.
Many Americans widely revere Walmart as a place of opportunity. In some cities it's become the only gig in town. Welfare Recipients are able find respectable jobs at Walmart stocking soda pop and scanning decorative garden gnomes (among other things).
Amid the capitalist glory
I witnessed at Walmart as a child, I was unaware that something that seemed so right could have been so wrong.
I can remember shopping at Walmart frequently when it went from pretty big to becoming world-takeover gigantic. It was about the time they updated the brand and plastered a happy little yellow face over every aisle.
I remember the cashiers the most. They were typically young black women with long, polished nails and perfectly-coiffed hair. They were usually friendly and polite.
Many were on welfare and under-educated. Walmartians would criticize them for working there, for probably being unwed
, for spending frivolously on fancy hair weave and worse -- being a Mom.
But at least someone noticed these employees, which was more than could be said of Walmart management.
Reform laws of the 1990's had required welfare Moms to work so that they would participate in their share of the public funding. This was a sensible thing to do. The "welfare reform" made Walmartians feel warm and fuzzy, including me.
But little did I know, the "reform" failed to require companies to pay living wages which would have actually allowed these working women to get off of the welfare rolls. The Walmart profit machine was too busy building new Walmarts to address issues of employee health insurance, fair pay, child care costs and sick leave.
Years later this problem persists.
The ever-expanding Walmart empire has enjoyed $1 billion in subsidies since in the 1980's. Recently, the company admitted to owing nearly 3 billion in pass due taxes as of 2009. (www.walmartwatch.com
Meanwhile it has grown to be the largest employer of Moms on the public assistance rolls. In spite of the 'reform' -- and working, these women are so underpaid they are still eligible for public benefits and Medicaid. Walmart's resistance to adding comprehensive health care plans and increasing employee wages was estimated to have cost $86 million dollars in 2004. And that was just in California.
In my opinion, welfare reform looks more like Walmart reform. The greatest beneficiaries of public assistance are now capitalists in favor of higher dividends who publicly denounce socialism while secretly reaping it's rewards. Walmart managed to increase it's productivity by gaining more workers while tax-paying Americans continued to foot their employee's bills.
When I became a Walmartian Mom, I began to think about the childcare situation of the Welfare Recipient scanning my items. What care was her child in on a Saturday for 8 hours at less than minimum wage? Was it Grandma, dad, a sibling, a T.V.?
That was when I officially decided to retire my Walmartian title.
Though we stand on different sides of a counter, when face-to-face Walmart Moms are quite similar. Both want their kids to have decent food, good healthcare, access to education and safe, loving care. When they walk into a Walmart, both believe they are doing something that is in the best financial interests of their children.
But American Moms are unwitting participants in America's economic race to the bottom when they walk into a business that offers one Mom "Everyday Low Prices" and another Mom "Everyday Low Wages".
Moms can make a choice to patron businesses that pay workers a living wage. Or they can choose to patron businesses that pad their profits by using our tax dollars.
I made my choice and I hope you think hard about yours.