Costco, Walmart, Sam’s Club


by David Safier

Two recent HuffPo stories caught my eye (thanks to Facebook posts, where, to my surprise, I've been finding ever more links to valuable articles). One references a study by Congressional Dems that says low Walmart wages can lead to as much as a $900,000 a year outlay from government programs to supplement low incomes at a 300-employee Walmart Supercenter (That comes to $3,000 per employee). The other is about how Costco, which pays living wages and offers good benefit packages, is seeing its profits rise while Walmart, and even the Walmart company Sam's Club, which is similar to Costco, are seeing their profits shrink.

Some facts from the articles.

  • "A typical Costco worker made $45,000 in 2011, according to Fortune."
  • "Sam’s Club workers’ average salary [is] $17,486 per year, according to salary information site"
  • Walmart workers who need publicly funded health care rack up a cost to taxpayers of as much as $250,000 per year at a 300-employee superstore. Add in the cost of other public-assistance programs, and the cost of government assistance totals about $900,000.
  • Costco's profits went up 19% last quarter.
  • Both Walmart and Sam's Club had lower sales last quarter. (Target also saw its profits shrink by 29%.)
  • "[Costco's] CEO, Craig Jelinek, said earlier this year that he supports President Barack Obama’s proposal to raise the minimum wage, even arguing that lawmakers should boost it to $10 per hour."

I remember reading stories awhile back where Costco's stockholders were complaining about the comparatively high wage/benefits package its workers received, saying Costco's allegiance is supposed to be to corporate profits, not worker well-being. It looks like it may be possible to have a mixture of both happy employees making a living wage and happy stockholders looking at rising profits.