15 September 2009

Corporate welfare: Wal-Mart

Around the time that the young Sam Walton opened his first stores, John Kennedy redeemed a presidential campaign promise by persuading Congress to extend the minimum wage to retail workers, who had until then not been covered by the law. Walton was furious. Now the goddamn federal government was telling him he had to pay his workers the $1.15 hourly minimum. Walton's response was to divide up his stores into individual companies whose revenues didn't exceed the $250,000 threshold. Eventually, though, a federal court ruled that this was simply a scheme to avoid paying the minimum wage, and he was ordered to pay his workers the accumulated sums he owed them, plus a double-time penalty thrown in for good measure. Wal-Mart cut the checks, but Walton also summoned the employees at a major cluster of his stores to a meeting. "I'll fire anyone who cashes the check," he told them. Harold Myerson, In Wal-Mart's Image, 11 September
Here are the types of subsidy that Wal-Mart receives, as documented by Good Jobs First (pdf).:

# Free or reduced-price land

# Infrastructure assistance

# Property tax breaks

# State corporate income tax credits

# Sales tax rebates

# Enterprise zone (and other zone) status

# Job training and worker recruitment funds

# Tax-exempt bond financing

# General grants

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