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Grocery and Produce 101

The first supermarkets was King Kullen, which opened in 1930. Though it did not become a nationwide brand like Kroger or A&P, it opened the doors to a new style of grocery shopping. Traditionally, one would go to the store and hand a list to the clerk, who would gather all your items for you. The new style used more preservatives to deter the threat of spoilage, which lowered the cost of the food. The lower prices drew customers away from the older stores.

Walmart was created in 1962. Tracie mentions how working at Walmart was preferable for the workers since the alternative was waiting tables. The benefits that Walmart provides are also mentioned. The author also notes that the labor requires skill, especially stocking the shelves.

However, the downside of this style of grocery stores is that Walmart is now so large that it is compared to the old railroad corporations that had power over everything. Business journalist Charles Fishman writes that “Walmart is so large that it can often defy the laws of supply, demand, and competition.” (McMillan 118).

Still, Walmart is expanding. Detroit is called the food desert because until 2011, there were no national grocery chains in Detroit’s city limits. It does have local stores, but not enough to met the demands of the residents. Tracie goes to work at a Walmart in Detroit. There, she experiences the lack of emphasis on safety from the Walmart supervisors. She mentions that she is “pretty sure this flies in the face of basic workplace injury law” but she does not say anything (McMillan 144).

I believe that this is a problem. Corporations that get too large lose interest in their workers and the people that should be its number one priority. Instead, cash flow and expansion and competition become the focus. Walmart cuts corners, not only in safety, but also in food quality. One example is the technique of crisping.  Crisping is when you cut off the limp ends of a leafy green and then put it in a cooler with water, so that it looks better. Also, the wages that Walmart pays are barely legal. The minimum wage is not substantial enough for people to live or provide for their families. Tracie says she got excited by her paycheck, since it was still much higher than what she got working in the fields, but realized that she had been overzealous and that it actually is not as much money as she thought. With the low prices that Walmart prides themselves on, they could pay their workers more. Also, hiring part time workers rather than full time brings into question the integrity of Walmart and how it is trying to get around providing benefits and other advantages to its full time employees.

There are many articles and news stories about how if Walmart increased its workers wages to a “livable” wage of $12.50, its prices would only increase by 1.1% (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/18/walmart-worker-wages_n_3611531.html).

Another source is this video from Slate, which outlines the math and comes up with the number “1.4% increase in price.”

Slate – Walmart Prices

I really recommend at least watching the Slate video and thinking about how corporations are neglecting the people they claim to care about. The employee is also a consumer, and mistreating and underpaying an employee should offend all of us.

 

Questions:

1. Why do you think Walmart has refused to increase its employees wages?

2. What does Walmart get out of doing when they hire part time workers instead of full time?

3. Do you think Walmart should increase wages and, in turn, increase its prices?

 

One Response to “Grocery and Produce 101”

  1. jkorn says:

    I think the main reason why Walmart doesn’t increase its employees wages is because they don’t have to. These big companies are probably getting hundreds of job applications everyday as people in our economy are always looking for jobs. As we have seen in this class, I think I would rather work at a Walmart than in places like UMP where people’s limbs are being cut off. Although I would love to see higher wages given to Walmart employees, Walmart is at the liberty to keep their prices low because so many people are looking for work.

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