November 19, 2013; UPI
Yesterday, NPQ covered a story about a Walmart store that had placed food donation bins in employee-only areas for “associates in need.” As one might predict, many had something to say about the wage levels of the retail giant, which force many associates onto food stamps and to charity relief. But Brooke Buchanan, a Walmart spokeswoman, said the corporation, which does not itself contribute to the relief of its badly paid staff, was “offended” by the criticism.
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“This program was completely taken out of context. We are offended. This was an act of human kindness for our associates.” And in fact, Buchanan said Walmart employees have donated $80 million through Associates in Critical Need Trust since 2001. The Walmart Foundation’s website advertises that it logged $1 billion dollars in charitable expenditures in 2012. Perhaps this is what Peter Buffett was referring to when he wrote in his op-ed about corporate leaders who “search for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left.”
“As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few,” he says, “the more heroic it sounds to ‘give back.’ It’s what I would call ‘conscience laundering’—feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.”
Where’s the justice?
Speaking of human kindness, the Organization United for Respect is challenging Walmart to pay its employees enough to feed their families without having to use charity or food stamps. “Walmart is asking us to donate food to our co-workers. Why can’t Walmart pay us enough so we can feed our families?” Meanwhile, the Nation reports that on Monday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Walmart had broken the law by firing and harassing employees who protested the company’s poverty pay and abusive labor practices.The NLRB will prosecute illegal firings and disciplinary actions involving more than 117 workers.—Ruth McCambridge