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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Saving Money, Ruining Lives?

“Save Money. Live Better.” This is the current slogan of the Wal-Mart corporation. In actuality the company is causing many families across the country to live worse. As a student myself, I recognize the importance of stretching the dollar; however, I want to make students more aware of where and how their dollars are being spent by the large “money-saving” company. The next time you jump in to your car to make a Wal-mart run, I ask you to consider the following information.

In 2004, a federal court judge approved the largest class-action lawsuits against the retailer for sexually discriminating against women. The suit is based on evidence that the company frequently pays female employees less for positions comparable to male employees, as well as continuously preventing women from being promoted into management. No settlement has been reached and the battle is still being fought in the federal courts. However, the likelihood of a settlement being reached is unlikely, since the retail giant has an army of lawyers capable of drowning the womens’ suit.

More recently, Wal-Mart has filed a lawsuit against a 53-year-old mother of three for medical costs incurred after Debbie Shanks was in a car against that left her permanently handicapped and brain-damaged. Shanks was a Wal-Mart employee at the time of the accident and received medical coverage through the retailer’s health plan. However, after the Shanks family received a million-dollar settlement with the trucking company that operated the truck that hit Shanks’ car, Wal-Mart asked for their money back.

The settlement after legal fees came to $417,000, which was placed in a trust, while Shanks medical costs came to $470,000 (at least, that’s what Wal-Mart paid); a judge ruled that Wal-Mart could only seek to reclaim the amount in the trust fund. The action taken by Wal-Mart was made legal by the fine print of their healthcare plan that enables the company to reclaim medical expenses in the case of a settlement. Although well within their legal rights, the company reported net sales of $90 billion in the third quarter of 2007.

My point in telling you this information is that while you may be saving money on a gallon of milk or a bag of potato chips, the “low” cost comes with a much higher human cost. Wal-Mart sets a precedent for employee treatment as one of the world’s largest retailers and employers. The price of “saving money” seems to be the continued oppression of female workers some 35 years after the Equal Pay Act of 1963, and cruelty in a time of need by means of well-thought out clause in a seemingly kind healthcare plan. At a time when the future of social programs is unclear, I ask you how much you are willing to save? A dollar on a gallon of milk? Women’s equality? Human decency?