Wal-Mart’s New Economic Model

Newsweek: “Wal-Mart is Mexico’s largest private-sector employer in the nation today, with nearly 150,000 local residents on its payroll. An additional 19,000 youngsters between the ages of 14 and 16 work after school in hundreds of Wal-Mart stores, mostly as grocery baggers, throughout Mexico—and none of them receives a red cent in wages or fringe benefits. The company doesn’t try to conceal this practice: its 62 Superama supermarkets display blue signs with white letters that tell shoppers: OUR VOLUNTEER PACKERS COLLECT NO SALARY, ONLY THE GRATUITY THAT YOU GIVE THEM. SUPERAMA THANKS YOU FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING. The use of unsalaried youths is legal in Mexico because the kids are said to be “volunteering” their services to Wal-Mart and are therefore not subject to the requirements and regulations that would otherwise apply under the country’s labor laws.”

Well, if Wal-Mart is going to “employ” “volunteer packers,” I think it’s high time that those who frequent Mexican Wal-Mart outlets become “volunteer consumers.” After all, if a corporation as rapacious as Wal-Mart prefers not to pay their packers, perhaps consumers can prefer not to pay Wal-Mart for the goods they acquire from their stores. Who says that Wal-Mart holds all the cards in establishing a new economy?

So here’s the deal, Mexico Wal-Mart shoppers: the next time you enter a Wal-Mart, wear a sign that reads I AM A VOLUNTEER CONSUMER WHO WILL OFFER NO MONEY FOR THESE GOODS, BECAUSE YOU’D RATHER EXPLOIT KIDS THAN PRACTICE BASIC ETHICAL PRINCIPLES. THANK YOU FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING.

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7 Comments

  1. Ed,

    Though you’re right to hate the Wal-Mart, after living here for a year I have to come down on Jeff’s side on this one. Teens (and younger) will do all kinds of “volunteer” things around a city in hopes of pulling in tips. It’s more or less accepted here s a legit way to make a buck.

    Also, as Mariachi Mama says, the minimum wage here is amazingly low, and teens and college students will work full days for a few bucks in wages. There’s a popular chain of cafes here–The Italian Coffee Company, a Mexican-owned business–that pays about $5 USD for a full shift. Or they might just hire themselves to help out carrying cement on a construction project, possibly making more at the end of the day.

  2. You know, WalMart was founded, and is owned and operated, by certfied rednecks. They may like employing little brown Mexicans for absolutely nothing, but I’ll bet they’d prefer to own them outright.

  3. To Scott and Jeff Hess,
    your comments are not relevant. The point here is not the height of the minimum wage (although it should be). It’s the fact that they are paid nothing for their work. Tips are another matter altogether. What they make off tips is one matter. Payment and security is another.
    And the sign. Oh, the sign. Somebody should be given to Iraqi Insurgency torturers for this, excuse my political incorrectness.

  4. As an aside, I have only found one of the books featured in my Book Notes series at a Wal-Mart store (Dead Head by Allen Wyler). Apparently Wal-Mart shoppers and I don’t share the same literary canon.

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