Jobs with Justice
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
DECEMBER 22, 2004
CONTACT: Jobs with Justice
Rand Wilson, 617-0697-0380 (cell)
Wal-Mart Elected "Grinch of the Year" for 2004
Cintas and Comcast Runners-Up in National Contest to Determine Who Did the Most Harm to Workers and their Families this Year
WASHINGTON -- December 22 -- The retailing giant Wal-Mart was named 'Grinch of the Year' in a national online poll held between December 6 and December 22 by Jobs with Justice. |
Wal-Mart is a fitting recipient of the Grinch title. As the United States' largest retailer and largest employer, Wal-Mart is a driving force in setting wage standards wherever its stores are located. Despite nearly $9 billion in profits, its wages are so low that many employees are eligible for food stamps. Even so, local taxpayers often finance Wal-Mart's expansion through tax breaks and development incentives.
Wal-Mart has created such high barriers to qualify for its health care benefits, that many workers are left dependent on publicly financed medical services, a largely hidden taxpayer subsidy. According to a research study in California, Wal-Mart workers seek $86 million a year in state aid because of inadequate wages and benefits. In effect, Wal-mart cleverly shifts a portion of its labor costs to the public.
Earlier this year, Wal-Mart admitted that it routinely locked overnight workers in its stores. Wal-Mart was also sued this year in the largest sex-discrimination case in history, brought on behalf of about 1.6 million current and former employees.
Around the country, Jobs with Justice coalitions have been in the middle of many community-based campaigns calling attention to the impact of Wal-Mart by demanding agreements from this giant corporation to improve its hiring and employment practices. Local Jobs with Justice coalitions in Chicago, IL, St. Louis, MO, Buffalo and New Paltz, NY, Washington, DC, Eugene and Bend, OR, and Toledo, OH have held rallies and hearings on Wal-Mart, published reports about its potential impact on communities, and pushed for comprehensive 'Big Box' store ordinances to help communities gain more leverage in the development process.
"The overwhelming vote to name Wal-Mart 'Grinch of the Year' reflects the growing concern that working families have with this mega-corporation," said Fred Azcarate, Executive Director of Jobs with Justice. "Jobs with Justice and our many allies are building a movement to challenge Wal-Marts low road strategy." Over sixty percent of the more than 2,300 votes cast in this year's election were for Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart has more than 3,500 stores and 1.3 million employees. The company is based in Bentonville, Arkansas. Learn more about how Wal-Mart is harming working families at www.walmartwatch.com.
Cintas, the largest uniform provider and industrial launderer in the nation, was runner up in the Grinch contest. Cintas workers have been injured and killed on the job as a result of illegal and unsafe working conditions. It has been charged with over 100 violations of health and safety standards, many for repeated violations that could lead to "death or serious physical harm." Cintas workers have routinely been disciplined or fired after reporting their injuries or filing worker's compensation claims, a serious violation of workers' rights.
Despite lucrative profits, Cintas has pushed increased health insurance costs onto its employees, making it impossible for many workers to afford insurance. To make matters worse, many employees of Cintas report being paid below the federal poverty line.
Cintas operates 351 facilities in the U.S. and Canada, including 15 manufacturing plants and seven distribution centers that employ more than 28,000 people. The company is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. Learn more about how Cintas is harming workers at www.uniformjustice.org.
Comcast, the nation's largest cable TV and broadband Internet company, won third place in the poll. Like Wal-Mart, Comcast has adopted a low road approach to its employees. "Comcast acts like a bully, refusing to adhere to the rules or community standards," said former maintenance technician Shannon Kirkland, who worked for Comcast for 11 years. "Comcast uses its disproportionate power to deny workers their rights."
Earlier this year, Jobs with Justice's National Workers' Rights Board released a report "This is Comcast: Silencing Our Voice at Work" documenting its widespread pattern of abuse of workers' rights and illustrating why the United States' 75 year-old labor laws need to be modernized.
Comcast is headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and employs 68,000 people in 4,000 communities. Learn more about how Comcast is harming workers at www.comcastwatch.com.
Each year JwJ coalitions across the country hold local 'Grinch of the Year' elections to determine the most deserving greedy Grinch in their hometowns. This year's local winners included: Missouri Governor Bob Holden in St. Louis and Ed Hickey of Add Temps in Providence.
To learn more about the Grinch awards and the other companies nominated to have most harmed working families in 2004, visit www.jwj.org/Grinch/2004Vote.htm.
Jobs with Justice is a national network of more than 40 local coalitions of unions, community groups, faith-based organizations, and student groups working together to fight for social and economic justice. Over 100,000 individual activists have taken the Jobs with Justice Pledge to be there five times a year for someone else's fight as well as their own.