According to a recent survey commissioned by Wal-Mart, New Yorkers overwhelmingly support the opening of Wal-Mart stores throughout the city’s five boroughs.

According to Wal-Mart’s survey, most New Yorkers believe that Wal-Mart will help the city financially and socially: 78 percent said that when large retailers open stores, they create jobs; 69 percent believed that if allowed to come to New York, Wal-Mart would create jobs, compared to 13 percent who said it would cost jobs; and 75 percent thought getting paid $10.38 an hour (Wal-Mart’s average wage in metropolitan areas like New York City) to work in a Wal-Mart store is a fair wage.

The survey is being touted as proof that the superstore should be allowed to open in New York City. However, what it really shows is that a large percentage of New Yorkers have fallen for the mega-store’s propaganda. Who could blame them? Wal-Mart has billions of dollars and spends millions each year to convince people of these lies.

New Yorkers, like people in general, are smart and will make good decisions, but only provided they have the correct information from which to make their judgments.

Assuming that the Wal-Mart survey is a correct representation of the city’s sentiments — and this is a large assumption — community and labor organizations, such as the NYC Free Wal-Mart Coalition, have a lot of work to do to bring to light the facts about the superstore’s real record.

Wal-Mart will not create jobs — it will destroy them. According to a 2003 report by the city of Los Angeles, stores like Wal-Mart “often can result in the reduction of consumer choice due to their tendency to cannibalize competing retail businesses.” Other studies show that Wal-Mart does create jobs — but unfortunately, it only creates two jobs for every three jobs it wipes out by its “cannibalization” of family businesses and smaller stores. And Wal-Mart’s jobs tend to pay significantly less. Its average $10.38 cents per hour is not a living wage. In Wal-Mart’s world, “full time” workers — about two-thirds of the workforce, can work as little as 34 hours per week. This comes out to $18,352 per year, even lower than the $18,400 federal poverty guideline for a family of four. The federal guideline is too low in general, and far too low for New York City, the fourth most expensive city in the U.S.

Also, according to the AFL-CIO, while 66 percent of American workers get health insurance from their work, less than half of Wal-Mart workers do. This is because Wal-Mart’s health insurance plan is excessively costly — an average of $208 per month (remember the workers make sub-poverty wages) — and deductibles range from $350 for single coverage to as high as $3,000 for family coverage. Wal-Mart workers have to pay 42 percent of their insurance costs, while the national average for large company workers is 16 percent.

Wal-Mart doesn’t help communities’ economies, but weakens them. According to a congressional study, the average 200-employee store costs taxpayers $420,750 per year. This is because the company pays wages that put workers into the category of “working poor,” forced to rely on state programs to survive. In effect, Wal-Mart transfers the costs of its workforce to the community.

Wal-Mart has been so widely implicated in encouraging its workers to apply for public assistance that it has been forced to add a section to its new PR web page attempting to refute that claim.

According to the Wal-Mart survey, New Yorkers believed in Wal-Mart’s purported low prices. Of course, any low prices are offset by the harm the store does to local communities, and the general lowering of wages in nearby areas. However, numerous surveys indicate that Wal-Mart, on the whole, is no cheaper than other stores. It is able to create its “bargain” image through deceptive advertising.

Apparently, Wal-Mart found that consumers know the prices of less than 1-2 percent of the thousands of items in its stores. So the company advertises prices that are much lower than the competition’s on “price sensitive items,” while keeping other products priced just as high, or higher, than the competition. In fact, Wal-Mart has been legally required to abandon its slogan, “Always the Lowest Prices,” because it was not true. They replaced it with a cleverly worded slogan that sounds almost identical: “Always Low Prices.”

The list of Wal-Mart abuses is long. The pro-Wal-Mart poll, even if accurate, only tells us that the superstore’s propaganda campaign has met some success. It is the job of those who value labor and community rights to dispel these lies.

Dan Margolis (dmargolis@pww.org) is on the staff of the People’s Weekly World.

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