Wal-Mart launches counterattack on The Nation

But in jabbing at the magazine's wages for its interns, the retailer confuses seasonal student laborers with full-time workers.

By Jason Notte Aug 9, 2013 10:56AM
Wal-Mart store in Secaucus, New Jersey / Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesHow does a giant retailer mute criticism of both unsafe labor practices and low wages in just four words?

If that retailer is Wal-Mart (WMT), it goes something like this: Hey, look over there!

On Wednesday, Wal-Mart announced a settlement with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration stemming from incidents involving employees who use trash compactors and cleaning chemicals at more than 2,800 stores, as part of an agreement with the Labor Department. The retailer plans to improve conditions at 2,857 Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores in 28 states that follow federal OSHA standards. The 22 states that operate their own OSHA inspection programs could negotiate similar agreements.

Wal-Mart also agreed to pay a $190,000 fine to fix hazards discovered during an OSHA inspection at a store in Rochester, N.Y.

But that's not what Wal-Mart wanted to talk about Wednesday morning, when Steven Restivo, a senior director of communications at Wal-Mart, sent out an email directed at left-leaning publication The Nation under the subject line "people who live in glass houses . . ."

Restive was responding to The Nation's open letter to Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke and the board of directors demanding that Wal-Mart start paying its workers a minimum wage of $12 an hour. It included an online petition that readers can sign. Restivo, in turn, pointed to a recent ProPublica report indicating that this fall, "interns at the Nation Institute will be paid minimum wage for the first time in the history of the 30-year-old program."

As ProPublica noted, The Nation has been paying its full-time interns a weekly stipend of $150 per week -- less than the current federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour.

That followed a letter written to The Nation by its interns asking it to "take the lead" in redefining the standards for the industry and pay its interns what they believe they deserve.

It's part of a continued move away from the free internship model that other media companies employ. But there are differences between Wal-Mart wages and Nation internships that stretch beyond the paycheck.

Nation interns generally aren't supporting families, but they do get free housing, monthly bus and subway cards, and scholarships. The interns are also paid for any writing they do for The Nation's magazine or website.

There are also only 12 of them. By contrast, Wal-Mart employs 1.4 million workers throughout the U.S., making it the country's largest private-sector employer. It also employs more than a quarter of the 4.3 million people who currently hold the country's most common job of retail salesperson.

Wal-Mart's full-time employees -- as opposed to The Nation's part-time, temporary interns -- earn an average of $12 or $13 an hour. That's about $25,000, or just above poverty level for a family of four. However, a report by IBISWorld, an independent market research group, indicates that the average Wal-Mart worker makes only $8.81 per hour. That's $15,576 a year for full-time workers.

So Duke's basic assertion is that his company pays full-time members of the workforce $2 to $6 an hour more than students trying to get their first experience through a limited-time position. Students who, by and large, don't have to pay for housing, transportation or family expenses. Is that really the withering comeback he was looking for?

With the union-supported OUR Wal-Mart employee group increasing pressure on the company and OSHA breathing down its neck, probably not. In fact, Wal-Mart employees issued an open letter of their own to the retailer after the OSHA settlement announcement. If Wal-Mart executives took their noses out of The Nation long enough to read it, they might have learned something about their own labor issues.

"We hope that today’s settlement sends a message to Wal-Mart that cutting corners on safety comes at great costs, not just to employees, but also to the company," the OUR Wal-Mart statement read.

It added: "Moreover, Wal-Mart needs to go beyond the settlement, start listening to its workers, and investigate its stores throughout the country to see if these violations are widespread and where they find violations, fix them. These issues are about the very basic right employees have to work in safe environments."

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Aug 9, 2013 11:09AM

If you don't like your Wal-Mart wages, find somebody that will pay you more and go work for them. 


Last I heard, it was a free country.

Aug 9, 2013 1:16PM
I am a capitalist (and definitely not a liberal), but I don't care much for the fact that the taxpayers subsidize Wal-Mart's low-low prices because they pay their employees wages below the poverty line and the welfare system has to take up the slack.

The HR depts at Wal-Marts actually help new hires apply for benefits.

That's just wrong.

Aug 9, 2013 12:38PM
Here is an idea - why don't the Democrat politicos and their gentry open businessses and then they can pay employees whatever they want? 
Aug 9, 2013 1:21PM
Who thinks the best way (or even an acceptable way) to support a family of 4 is to get a part-time job at Walmart?????  

Aug 9, 2013 12:11PM
Perhaps minimum wage earners should have planned better if they can't afford to support their families on minimum wage. Libtards think companies are in business to employ people. So why don't you start a competing company and pay them $15/hr with full medical benefits  and with 1 year paid time off for every child they bring into the world.
Aug 9, 2013 11:39AM
My wife has worked for Walmart for nearly 20 years and earns more than $12 an hour.
If Walmart were to pay all employees at least that much, they'd start looking for ways to get
rid of higher paid workers.

The Nation should mind its own business, or at least know what they're talking about.
Aug 9, 2013 1:13PM
America - founded with the freedom to pursue happiness.  Everyone thinks they have been endowed by their creator to life, liberty, and $20something/hr. 

Aug 9, 2013 1:28PM
I'm a dreaded liberal and I live in a mostly capitalistic society.  I have zero problem with a company paying whatever they like to their employees just as long as their full-time employees are paid enough to keep them from qualifying for assistance from the US Government.
Aug 9, 2013 12:43PM
Here we go again. Back to well to smash the usual most hated ( BTW biggest companies in their segment) companies again. It is like a sport for people. 

Since when did an employee get to dictate how much they get paid? So many walk into an interview with their best face on; i want this job, i'll work hard, blah blah blah and as soon as you hire them start to complain about everything. Don't ever kid yourself, they won't change fire them immediately.   
Aug 9, 2013 11:31AM
Jason Notte - Interesting headline considering you launch flawed counterattacks on free market principles and individual liberty on a daily basis.
Aug 9, 2013 1:19PM
In the interests of full disclosure...those so called "interns" really are either free or cheap labor. ..and I would not be at all surprised to learn that MSN has some of them on hand.
Aug 9, 2013 12:42PM
Wow, what a pathetic excuse for journalism.  Just another Libtard with a soap box.  GFY
Aug 9, 2013 12:04PM

"Moreover, Wal-Mart needs to go beyond the settlement, start listening to its workers, and investigate its stores throughout the country to see if these violations are widespread and where they find violations, fix them. These issues are about the very basic right employees have to work in safe environments.”


Any Wal-Mart employee can call OSHA to report violations. But the Wal-Mart haters just want to whine and complain.

Aug 9, 2013 1:22PM

If you want to reach oneness with the universe, become a Community Organizer.


If you want a job, Wal-Mart can help your out.


Aug 9, 2013 1:04PM
"Students who, by and large, don't have to pay for housing, transportation or family expenses".  Why should these items ever be factors in determining a wage level?  A lot of students do have these expenses anyway.  Companies can pay what they think the job is worth.  And employees can accept what they think they are worth or what the opportunity is worth.  Otherwise go somewhere else.  But I wouldn't want an employer telling me they will pay me less because they think I don't have housing, transportation or family expenses.  
Aug 9, 2013 12:31PM

Great article, but enough about Wal-mart. I'm an aging baby boomer who has not saved enought

for retirerment and has not tried very hard be better myself in the job market. So if you and your MSN buddies would start ragging on my employer (Largest Homecenter chain )  for more money and more

consideration with weekend work I would really appeciate it. I'm looking for mid $20. Thank you.

Aug 9, 2013 1:36PM
Walmart jobs are not intended as full-time living wage positions; they are intended as entry level positions.  Anyone who believes that they can take care of a family of four while working an entry level position needs to get a real job...  for those who work at Walmart and don't like the wages, do what everyone else does: get a skill, get out of Walmart, and get a job paying more elsewhere.
Aug 9, 2013 1:14PM
Excuse me, but it IS the same thing, whether it's done to ONE person or MILLIONS of people. I agree that Walmart should pay its workers higher wages [who doesn't want more money?] but if you don't like what Walmart pays, DONT WORK THERE!! I am NOT defending Walmart's practices, [I personally think that they treat their workers horribly], but I'm not hypocritical about it. I DON'T shop at Walmart. Now as for the magazine, I have PERSONALLY seen MORE hypocrisy on the so-called "liberal left" than on the "reactionary right", NOT saying the right is perfect, they aren't. But since BOTH sides live in glass houses, NEITHER side should be throwing ANY stones until they get their own house in order. Especially the people on BOTH sides that "never saw a law that restricted freedom, told people what to do, or not do, gave some group special privileges, etc." cry foul when THEIR hypocrisy is EXPOSED.
Aug 9, 2013 12:13PM

Walmart pays the highest wages in its industry segment according to Glassdoor.com. The typical Walmart job pays in excess of $75,000 and many pay well into the six figures.


They even pay better than Nordstrom. This is just a red herring. Any worker unhappy with pay at Walmart is free to leave and work for a competitor.

Aug 9, 2013 1:40PM

I have posted this before and I will again because it is something to consider. Please read it all before rating it thumbs down and imagine what you would do in my position.

 I am disabled and I have no idea how I would survive if it were not for the local super Wal-Mart

which thankfully is within walking distance, or should I say hobbling distance since I cannot get around without a cane. I live directly across from it on a side street and at the beginning of each month I am thankful that they are there. Not only do their low prices save my life but the manager also made an agreement with the apartment complex I live in. Since so many people here, myself included, cannot drive we can push our carts across the street and there is a designated spot to leave them after we have emptied our purchases inside our abodes. They also have an abundance of the electric shopping carts which come in quite handy on those days when my legs are especially painful. I am well aware of the fact that Wal-Mart pays their employees less, on average, then other supermarkets or department stores. Just keep this in mind when you are criticizing Wal-Mart the next time...There are millions people like me who cannot afford to pay $5 For a bottle of shampoo at the local supermarket where unionized cahiers make $20/hr. What does "The Nation" do to ease the financial burden on someone like me?

BTW...I qualify for SNAP (food stamps) but refuse to take them as long as I can survive and before being "struck done" I made a good living and had a credit rating of 815 but all of that is gone because it took 2.5 years to obtain disability even in a state that had a Dem governor at the time.

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