Language of Brutal Greed

Michael Duke, CEO of Wal-Mart

Michael Duke, CEO of Wal-Mart

Hi, welcome to Wal-Mart, thanks for coming to Lowes, welcome to to McDonalds, how can I help you?

Vast retail companies argue that they’re good for whatever community they build in, in particular because they provide jobs (they also like the word “community”). Here is an excerpt, for example, from a recent editorial in the Washington Post by Alex Barron, a regional general manager of Wal-Mart: “In November 2010, Wal-Mart announced a plan to bring more jobs, shopping options and fresh food choices to Washington residents. Just 12 months later, we increased our investment—from four stores to six and from 1,200 jobs to 1,800—in an effort to expand access and opportunity to more underserved communities in the city.”

The areas of the city referred to (the “communities”) could use more jobs and services, that’s true. Maybe 1,800 jobs is part of the solution. The editorial above, however, goes on to say that even though Wal-Mart was making “an effort” specifically to “bring more jobs” (and other good things) to “underserved communities” the DC City Council is trying to “undermine our efforts”. There have even been newspaper headlines that refer to “blocking Wal-Mart”.

Block jobs? Whenever anyone uses the word “job” shouldn’t we all stop and remove our hats as a sign of respect? There is currently a loud controversy between Wal-Mart and the DC City Council, which wants to require large companies (defined as “more than $1 billion in sales and store size of more the 75,000 square feet”) to pay a minimum wage of $12.50. Wal-Mart says this requirement is financially impossible, and they will refuse to build more stores in Washington. Wal-Mart is not being “blocked” of course. They are choosing because they don’t want to pay such a high salary.

The same Wal-Mart editorial further says: “Residents told us that they wanted good jobs”.

What is the purpose of a job? Would you say it is merely to have something to do with part of your day, a way to pass time? If you were suddenly rich, perhaps you would you still get up every day and go to work at the same place, doing exactly what you’re doing.

Perhaps not. The purpose of a job, obviously, is to earn a living, to acquire enough money to pay rent, buy food, and so on, and ideally, even enjoy life a bit. A “good job” as referred to by the Wal-Mart editorial, would of course make these things possible. The current minimum wage in Washington, DC (higher than in most states) is $8.25 an hour. If you worked 40 hours a week for 52 weeks (no time of, no weeks off), you’d earn $17,000 a year.

That would be a nice life, don’t you think, with all that money? What is the DC City Council bitching about? Maybe Wal-Mart can’t afford to pay more and stay in business. Paying $12.50 an hour, good Lord, you’d have workers rolling in cash at $26,000 (no time of, no weeks off, of course). Why does the City Council want to hurt Wal-Mart, when the poor company is just trying to bring “good jobs” to “underserved communities”.

What, for instance, does the head of Wal-Mart make? What does he get by on? Mike Duke, CEO of Wal-Mart, last year earned $20,700,000. (Just for fun, we can calculate that at $9,952—per hour). Of course that’s with no time off, no weeks off, but we can assume the CEO of Wal-Mart didn’t have even one day of vacation, right?

A Wal-Mart spokesman, Steve Restivo, said in justification of the salary (which they don’t call salary), “I don’t think Mike Duke needs, as the CEO of a Fortune 1 company, needs me to defend his compensation package.”

In the middle of that sentence, Restivo gives the reason why such a salary does not need defense, because Duke is “the CEO of a Fortune 1 company”. The logic is that if you make a gargantuan salary as head of a large company, this is justified because . . . you are head of a large company. End of explanation. Possibly Steve Restivo has heard of circular logic and just doesn’t care.

Or maybe we’re just stupid peasants who don’t need an explanation as to why a company that pays one man nearly $10,000 an hour refuses to build stores if required to pay an outrageously high salary like $12.50 an hour. After all, a “good job” is one thing, but c’mon, people. You goddamned communists. What do you want, three meals a day? Or maybe when large retail organizations—and not just Wal-Mart—use the word “job” it’s nothing but a noise that ends with a “b” so we’ll take our hats off. Stupid peasants.

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1 Comment

Filed under Language

One response to “Language of Brutal Greed

  1. Recently, a number of well intentioned people have placed memes on facebook, asking me to “like” or agree to a slight increase in prices I pay at Wal-Mart which would lead to living wages for its employees. As you know, I have and continue to never set foot in Wal-Mart, but the assumption is that we all go there and spend our money anyway. Further, if others like me, never hear that Wal-Mart greeting, our boycott would cost our neighbors a job. The idea is we need to spend more at Walmart , so they can pay a human wage. Really! Like they’ll do that? Instead, we should fight this pariah on our communities and return to our small mom and pop stores. That is, if you can find any in your downtown that Walmart has not crushed.

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