“Sending Wal-Mart Back to School” Press Conference, Wednesday, 8/24 @ 2 p.m.

The NEA (National Education Association) , the AFT (American Federation of Teachers), and NYS United Teachers have joined with our Tompkins County Living Wage Coalition and others in a national campaign to hold Wal-Mart accountable for its failing grades (see below), and to get them to change their practices. To publicize this we are trying to get many teachers and others connected with schools and colleges to come to a press conference next week. The press conference is next Wednesday, August 24, 2-2:30 at the Department of Social Services Building (320 W. State Street, Beverly Livesay Room on the 1st floor). We have chosen this venue partly because Wal-Mart’s failure to provide affordable health insurance forces many employees and their families to rely on County and taxpayer-funded Medicaid and social services.

This national “Send Wal-Mart Back to School” is timed to coincide with the back-to-school sales season. The aim is to educate the public about the harmful effect Wal-Mart’s business practices have on its employees, children, our community and the economy, and to get Wal-Mart to change. The Tompkins County Living Wage Coalition (along with the NEA, AFT and the national Wakeup WalMart Campaign) think that this is the prefect time to present Wal-Mart with its report card and to insist on improvement. Wal-Mart’s report card is unsatisfactory. On every subject – worker pay, providing health insurance, child labor, sexual discrimination, tax costs to the public – Wal-Mart has failing grades. ! Wal-Mart needs to work on improving its performance.

We suggest the following ways our community can hold Wal-Mart accountable for its failing grades and to get it to improve.
1) When people shop for back to school items we can consider all our choices and decide whether we want to shop at Wal-Mart or somewhere else.
2) If you do shop at Wal-Mart, speak to a manager to indicate your expectation that Wal-Mart will work to improve its grades or you may not shop there in the future.
3) Publicize the failing grades as we are doing with this press conference and our Wal-Mart Living Wage Campaign

If you have any thoughts or suggestions on any of this please let us know. We can give you more information about this or you can also get it on the web at http://www.wakeupwalmart.com/feature/school/ or http://www.nea.org/topics/walmart.html or http://www.nysut.org/newyorkteacher/2004-2005/050810walmart.html or at our own website, www.tclilvingwage.org
Here is the report card. Remember we all pay for Wal-Mart’s poor performance. And, yes, Wal-Mart is not the only retailer that has poor grades, but it is the largest, the richest, and probably has the worst performance over all. If we can get Wal-Mart to change, the others will follow.

Poverty level wages:
Wal-Mart pays workers too little to keep a family of four out of poverty. (Calculations by the AFL-CIO’s Department of Public Policy; Data from: U.S. Depar! tment of Health and Human Services, http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/05poverty.shtml; http://www.walmartfacts.com/doyouknow)

Taxpayer Abuse
Wal-Mart costs American taxpayers up to $2.7 billion per year in taxpayer funded public health care and public assistance programs. (Everyday Low Wages:The Hidden Price We All Pay for Wal-Mart,Democratic Staff of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, U.S. House of Representatives, 2/16/04; Form 10-K filed by Wal- Mart, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Fiscal Year Ended 1/31/05)

Poor Benefits
Fewer than half of Wal-Mart’s workers are covered by the company’s health plan because of long waiting periods for eligibility and high cos! ts – and because Wal-Mart increased the number of hours per week from 28 to 34 for employees to qualify for full-time health benefits, forcing them to wait even longer for eligibility as part-timers. (2004 Wal-Mart Associate Guide; www.walmartfacts.com; Open Enrollment News, 9/03)

Wal-Mart is facing the largest gender discrimination lawsuit in history affecting more than 1.6 million female employees. In some cases, women earned $5,000 a year less than men for the same job. (The Recorder, 3/7/05; Statistical Analysis of Gender Patterns in Wal-Mart Workforce,Richard Drogin, PhD, February 2003)

Child Labor
Wal-Mart agreed to pay $135,540 to settle federal charges that it broke child labor laws. (The New York Times, 2/12/05) Three Wal-Mart stores in Connecticut were fined in mid June for a total of $3,300 for child-labor law violations. (Associated Press, 6/17/05)