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Walmart is in damage control mode as Black Friday approaches, bringing with it planned protests across the country. Vice President of Communications David Tovar went on CNN to unload all the company's ridiculous claims about how well Walmart treats its workers and how just a few bad apples put up to making trouble by the union are the source of all this terrible publicity, only to meet some tough questioning by host Carol Costello.
COSTELLO: The wage gap in this country continues to grow ever wider. you know, we hear from economists all the time, we need a strong middle class to make our overall economy stronger. Is it Walmart’s responsibility to make sure that its employees can support a strong middle-class lifestyle?

TOVAR: We’re working hard every day to provide more opportunities for associates. [...]

COSTELLO: But if a lot of them are making $15,000 a year, you can’t live a strong middle-class lifestyle on that. You just can’t. [...]

TOVAR: Our average rate is about $12.40 an hour far a full time associate. We also offer comprehensive benefit packages as low as $17 a pay period, which is very affordable and we also pay quarterly bonuses, which is something that not a lot of retailers do…. And we know that they appreciate that, they also get a 10 percent discount card. So you have to factor in all of those things when you’re looking for how we’re helping associates.

But you don't get to be a vice president of communications for Walmart without knowing how to keep to your talking points and lie with a smile on your face. Costello did a good job following up with Tovar, but I'm left with a few more questions.

In the interview, Tovar claimed that a majority of Walmart workers are employed full-time, which is interesting since Walmart has always refused to say how many of its workers are full-time. Does Tovar's claim on CNN mean Walmart will be releasing numbers that can be verified?

And how do Tovar's claims line up with the internal company document on pay structures, which:

[...] details a rigid pay structure for hourly employees that makes it difficult for most to rise much beyond poverty-level wages.

Low-level workers typically start near minimum wage, and have the potential to earn raises of 20 to 40 cents an hour through incremental promotions. Flawless performance merits a 60 cent raise per year under the policy, regardless of how much time an employee has worked for the company. As a result, a "solid performer" who starts at Walmart as a cart pusher making $8 an hour and receives one promotion, about the average rate, can expect to make $10.60 after working at the company for 6 years.

If Walmart is such an amazing employer, with a majority of full-time workers, paid an average of $12.40 an hour (that's $25,792 a year, by the way), why, in state after state, does Walmart lead the list of employers whose workers receive public assistance?

If Walmart is so good to its workers, what's with all the gender discrimination lawsuits? Did the union put thousands of women up to falsely claiming discrimination? What about wage theft and safety violations all up and down Walmart's supply chain? Did the union get a wide range of government agencies to fine Walmart and the contractors it tightly oversees for stuff that never happened? For that matter, at Walmart's own stores? In recent years, Walmart has paid hundreds of millions of dollars to settle wage theft charges.

Stand with Walmart workers this Black Friday.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 10:05 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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