re-posted from EatDrinkPolitics
In the United States, 49 million individuals suffer from hunger, including 15.8 million children. In the last three years, the number of participants in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps) grew by 42% to more than 47 million Americans. The growth in SNAP eligibility is not just due to people who can’t find work, but also because many people are under- employed or in jobs where they are paid too little to cover their own food costs.
The hunger crisis in the United States is the result of larger economic factors at play. Today, income inequality is at its highest levels since the 1920s. While corporate profits are reaching record levels, the majority of American families are working harder for less and average wages are at the lowest point since 1948.
Men and women are looking for fair pay for their hard work, but low wages, erratic scheduling and involuntary part-timing are keeping them from supporting their families, including putting a warm dinner on the table at night.
At Walmart – our country’s largest employer – too many workers are unable to provide food for their families because they are paid poverty wages and cannot get full-time, consistent hours.
Walmart and the Walton family are at the center of a profit-building empire that allows them to build their wealth off of workers’ inability to afford food.
In addition to paying workers so little that too many rely on public assistance, Walmart and the Waltons are building their wealth with income from food stamps.
And while Walmart and the Waltons often tout their anti-hunger charities, this giving, through its huge public relations push, shifts the conversation away from addressing the larger food insecurity issues the corporation and its owners are creating.
The conversation they want to avoid is how Walmart and the Waltons have helped to create the hunger crisis in America. They also have the ability – more than any other business – to lift hundreds of thousands of working families out of poverty by improving jobs at its stores, which would, in turn, reduce hunger across the nation.
Walmart Sets the Standard for Low- Pay in Retail and the Economy
A close look at the causes of hunger in America shows the overlap with the symptoms of the Walmart economy. And that is no coincidence.
In the U.S. today, the fastest growing job sector is low-wage retail jobs, with one in every 10 retail employees working at Walmart. With its size and reach nationwide, Walmart’s pay and other practices set the standard for the retail industry and drive down pay in other industries as well.
Estimates of hourly Walmart wages vary, but one study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that Walmart cashiers average just $8.48/hour, while another industry report found the average pay to be $8.818 per hour. At this rate, an employee who works 34 hours per week, which is Walmart’s definition of full-time, is paid $15,500 per year, which is about $8,000 below the federal poverty line for a family of four.
Walmart has confirmed that the company pays the majority of its workers less than $25,000 a year. As a result, many Walmart workers are at or near the federal poverty line and are unable to feed and clothe their families and provide basic necessities for their children.
Walmart’s Systematic Part-Timing Keeps Take Home Pay Low
Since 2006, the retail and wholesale sector has cut one million full-time jobs while adding 500,000 part-time jobs. As many as 600,000 Walmart workers currently work part-time, although many want to work full-time and are pushing for additional hours. The company intensified its hiring of temporary workers last year, while continuing to deny full-time hours to many employees who want them.
Read more on Walmart’s Hunger Games