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October 09, 2006

You Go, Wal-Mart

Daniel Gross makes a great point about Wal-Mart's Great Registration Drive of 06:

It is disproportionately African-American. African-Americans are about 11 percent of the American population and vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. According to this CNN exit poll, they went for Kerry by an 88-11 margin in 2004. But African-Americans constitute nearly 17 percent of Wal-Mart's employees and 18 percent of sales workers. Encouraging more middle- and lower-income African-Americans to vote in states like Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi would almost certainly be a net positive for Democratic candidates.

We know, as well, that women tend to vote disproportionately for Democrats. In 2004, according to CNN, women (and working women) voted for Kerry by a 51-48 margin. Women are substantially overrepresented in Wal-Mart's workforce. About 60 percent of all employees are women. And three-quarters of its sales workers are female—a higher proportion than at other retailers. All things being equal, more women voting will boost Democratic candidates.

Finally, Wal-Mart's workforce is disproportionately composed of lower-income workers. Barbara Ehrenreich says Wal-Mart's mean wage is $9.68 an hour, which comes out to about $20,000 a year on a full-time basis. In 2004, again according to CNN, those with incomes under $15,000 voted for John Kerry by a 63-36 margin, and those with incomes in the $15,000-$30,000 range voted for Kerry by a 57-42 margin. More lower-income Americans, many of whom are women and African-American, voting would benefit Democratic candidates.

There are Democratic groups. Wal-Mart may think that employees are aching to defend their employer at the polls, but low wages, poor health care, 24-hour availability, and a preference for part time work may not leave Wal-Mart's "associates" quite so enamored with their employer. While you often hear Wal-Mart and its defenders brag that nine kajillion workers apply per open position, there's a difference between unskilled workers needing jobs and unskilled workers liking their jobs, or thinking they're being compensated fairly and generously. And Wal-Mart's turnover rate -- about 40-50 percent of their workforce -- is among the highest in the retail industry, evidence that folks aren't quite adoring their work conditions. Costco, by contrast, reports a turnover rate of half that.

October 9, 2006 in Wal-Mart | Permalink


My husband and I usually avoid Wal-Mart, but we did go into the the one in Kona, Hawaii a couple of times to get film developed. We were shocked at the messy conditions (clothing left on the floor, for example), but even more by the employees' openly complaining to customers about how awful Wal-Mart is. If that one is at all representative, the employees are definitely not happy campers.

Posted by: Rebecca Allen, PhD, ARNP | Oct 9, 2006 2:53:40 PM

Relative racial proportions are useless unless they are normalized to the specific areas of the country and the specific economic groups in which they occur. Blacks constitute over a quarter of the population of most southern states, for example, and Walmart is the primary retailer in the south, without even taking the economic stratification into account.

One might also wonder whether or not the criteria used to classify someone as "black" when employed by Walmart is the same as the criteria used in the U.S. census. As I just recently heard a comedian say, "One advantage of being Hispanic is that you can date interracially within your own ethnic group."

Posted by: James Killus | Oct 9, 2006 7:34:01 PM

I happen to work for walmart, and thank goodness, im at their online department working for their http://www.rollingpricesback.com. I guess im not affected. Well, i just love walmart!

Posted by: walmart homepage | Aug 9, 2007 3:19:30 AM

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