Forum: Aftermath of the Black Friday protest at Wal-Mart in Hadley

Last modified: Tuesday, December 17, 2013
EDITOR’S NOTE: Readers respond to a Dec. 9 letter critical of a protest at the Hadley Wal-Mart.

Studies refute claims on Wal-Mart might

A Dec. 9 letter reveals that the writer did not much like the Wal-Mart protest in Hadley on Black Friday. For starters, he was upset that an elected official joined the protest, and as a retired person, he was embarrassed by the Raging Grannies.

The writer is pleased that Wal-Mart has restored a dead mall to life and he reasons that though he likes mom-and-pop stores, he doesn’t think they could generate enough revenue to keep our “government’s spend-and-waste policies alive.” Sounds sort of reasonable, but sometimes intuition fails us — a little Googling might cast a different light on the subject. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Economics looked at 3,000 Wal-Mart store openings nationally. The study found, on average, that a store opening resulted in a county-level net decline of 150 jobs, as it forced other businesses to downsize or shutter. In 2010, 1.4 million Americans worked at Wal-Mart. The average associate earned $8.87 an hour, or $15,700 a year for a 34-hour week (assuming a 52-week year). For a family of three, this is fully $3,000 below the poverty line. Wal-Mart earned a net profit in 2011 of $15.7 billion. Were Wal-Mart to raise wages by $2.13 an hour, bringing average hourly pay to $11 an hour, it could just manage to push salaries up to the poverty line.

And Wal-Mart would still have earned net profits of $10.4 billion. The rest of us, including the letter-writer, are also stakeholders. A Wisconsin study found that a single 300-person Wal-Mart store likely costs taxpayers more than $900,000 a year in Medicaid and food stamps to help Wal-Mart employees get by. Just six members of the Walton family have amassed an estimated combined fortune of between $115 billion and $144 billion. These six individuals have more wealth than the combined financial assets of the poorest 40 percent of the U.S. population.

Perhaps the writer might undertake a rethink — and join the next Wal-Mart demo.

Ernest Urvater


Lawmaker correct 
to attend this event

In a Dec. 9 letter in the Gazette about the recent demonstration at the Hadley Wal-Mart at which Ellen Story spoke, the writer asks, “Since when do we have an elected official out in public rallying against a business like Wal-Mart?” One answer is, since the days of Theodore Roosevelt, who vociferously criticized trusts and other Gilded Age manipulators of employment and wealth in this country.

Another answer is, never before now — because until now there never has been a business like Wal-Mart, employing two million people, earning more than its nine closest competitors combined and putting more than one hundred billion dollars into the bank accounts of a single family whose idea of appreciating their employees’ efforts is to suggest that people who make $11 an hour should donate food to other people who are also making $11 an hour but have more living expenses to manage.

Why shouldn’t our elected leaders speak publicly on behalf of wage earners?

In deriding the workers at Wal-Mart who also participated in the demonstration, the writer implies that if one does not agree with the way one’s business is run, one’s only options are to shut up or to leave. Interestingly, others do not share this view.

Wal-Mart executives have constantly denied that the company ever harasses, ostracizes or fires workers who speak in favor of unionizing. Investigations by the National Labor Relations Board have found that in fact Wal-Mart has done exactly what it claims not to do. Its workers need to say something.

Sell Wal-Mart to the Chinese? Why bother with the formalities? Chinese workers already make most of the goods sold in Wal-Mart stores. As for the writer’s suggestion that there are “no more jobs” in America, unemployment in this country has been dropping steadily for the past year.

And about the Raging Grannies: I’m sorry they embarrass the writer, but I suspect the “old girls” themselves aren’t losing a lot of sleep over that fact.

John Stifler


This ‘raging granny’ now has her dander up

I am one of those “embarrassing” Raging Grannies referred to in a recent letter to Gazette. We were accused of biting the hand that feeds hundreds of elderly because we often protest against the poor wages Wal-Mart gives its workers. Really? We bite? Well, good for us! Wal-Mart, like the fast food industry, relies on government programs to subsidize the low wages of its employees, while the company itself makes money hand over fist. Those government programs are now being threatened and cut by our Republican-dominated Congress for being too expensive, when in reality all taxpayers, including the elderly, are subsidizing Wal-Mart, which causes more people to use these programs. So I would like to point out to my fellow retiree who criticized us for standing up for the workers, and who likes the cheap food and products at Wal-Mart, that you may be eating cheaply, but you would be wiser if you bought locally. You are putting money in the pockets of millionaires and they don’t live around here.

And yes, I do think mom and pop stores could generate enough revenue, along with medium-sized and far bigger businesses, to keep our town, state and federal governments’ programs alive and well. I appreciate the many services our business taxes support: fire departments, police, schools, libraries, roads and a hand up to those who are in need. And I was proud to see our state representative, Ellen Story, doing her job and supporting higher wages too!

Peggy Anderson