Millions of American shoppers are poised for the Christmas consumer frenzy that starts on 'Black Friday' (29 November), and for many their first point of call will be Walmart, the vast chain of discount warehouse outlets that dominate the US retail landscape.
But Walmart's reputation for being cheap is looping back into the way it treats its army of workers, who keep the shelves stocked and the tills running red-hot with a river of money. Campaigners have dubbed it a 'ruthless corporate monster' and growing pressure to change its employment practices recently boiled over into labour unrest.
Here are some numbers which illustrate Walmart employees' grievances in crystal clarity:
- Walmart has 2.2 million employees globally
- The family-run business brought in revenues of $469 billion in 2013 and generated profit of $27.8 billion
- The lowest-paid workers for a 40-hour week is about $18,720 but the average salary is actually about $9 an hour and most workers only work 34 hours a week, resulting in an annual $15,500.
- Only 475,000 of the company's U.S. employees made more than $25,000 a year, suggesting that the remaining 1 million that live in America do not.
- A report from California found that 44,000 employees rely on around $44 million worth of taxpayer money to get by. It's thought that up to $1 billion is spent annually by states all across America to subsidise the lowest-paid Walmart workers, according to ChangeWalmart, an advocacy group in support of Walmart employees.
- A report by the Democratic staff of the House Education and Workforce Committee in May 2013 claims that Walmart's state subsidies amount to $4 billion annually. Adding in the generous tax incentives offered by states to attract Walmart to various areas and the cost to taxpayers, the total savings for the company run into the tens of billions.
- It would take the average worker around 750 years to earn the $23.2 million that CEO Mike Duke earned in 2012, approximately 1,034 times more than the company's average worker.
- Unlike their TV namesakes who lived in gentile poverty on Waltons mountain, the real Waltons family, who own 50% of the company, make your average billionaire look low-rent. They are worth a combined total of $150 billion (as of August 2013), valuing them as the wealthiest family in the world.
- In 2011, six members of the Walton family had the same net worth as the bottom 30% of American families combined.