Walmart made headlines with another scandal this past week after losing its appeal of a $224 million judgement to Pennsylvania employees that had been forced by the retail giant to work through lunch breaks.
The Supreme Court declined to hear the company’s appeal, meaning that 187,000 workers who have been waiting for 6 years will finally receive compensation for their work. As the nation’s largest labor union Making Change at Walmart declared,
“The world’s largest retailer won’t be able to continue to mistreat its workers and get away with it. Walmart workers, when they come together, have a powerful voice that cannot be silenced.”
Attorney Michael D. Donovan of Donovan Litigation Group expressed deep empathy for workers, stating that “wage theft will not be tolerated”. He also noted that, including interest, the original $140 million has increased to $224 million.
This is by no means the first time Walmart has made headlines with some financial or legal scandal. The corporation has become infamous for selling cheap, imported goods for prices so low they inevitably tank any local business. Because of this model, the business has made billions – all while not even sustaining employees with living wages. A recent Bloomberg investigation furthered the tarnished reputation of the retail giant, finding that nearly $76 billion was stashed in foreign tax havens and sheltered $1.3 billion paying a 1 percent tax rate. The US Corporate income tax rate is 35 percent; by using this method, Walmart was able to reduce its income tax bill from $455 million to a mere $13 million.
Walmart’s behemoth of a sales force is larger than the U.S. Army, yet is paid appallingly low wages. By maintaining such low salaries, the company essentially gets paid in a what is a federal benefits package, which costs American taxpayers $7 billion annually in subsidies. Six Waltons own 55 percent of Walmart, all of whom profit $4 billion a year in benefits from taxpayers through wage subsidies to low-paid workers.
As a company, Walmart claims that its entire income tax bill is $6 billion annually; so in a way, the taxpayers give Walmart back their check each year, equal to about 2 percent of all corporate taxes paid in America. That means roughly an extra billion goes directly back to Walmart, and an extra $600 million on top of that that each of the Walton family shelters from paying in income taxes alone, thanks to a massive loophole in tax law. The absolutely absurd amount of profits this company produces begs the question of why they would even bother stealing lunch breaks from their employees.
The very same antics that allowed for such a profit to be made, however, may be the cause of their downfall. Bloomberg called Walmart’s recent record low for worst sales growth since its conception 45 years ago ‘The End Of An Era’. The company shut down 154 U.S. locations just this past January and about 100 locations overseas. Perhaps the reign of yet another abusive corporation is coming to a close, with workers experiencing at least the small triumph of getting their lunch breaks compensated.