Lashanda Myrick, a Colorado mother of two, came to Walmart last year seeking a steady job that would help her provide for her children. Instead, she got a job that made it harder to be a mom. When she drops her young daughter off at night at her mother’s house so she can work the overnight shift stocking shelves, she thinks about how her irregular work schedule disrupts her parenting schedule.
“It’s hard not to be able to tuck her in. And it hurts me that my child can’t sleep in her own bed at night. And there’s nothing I can do,” she said at a press conference earlier this week organized by the labor coalition OUR Walmart. “It breaks my heart … because I really have no choice.”
Myrick’s experiences illustrate the ugly duality of the Walmart economy: while consumers enjoy low prices and unlimited selection, workers get low wages and impossible choices. Family versus work, a poverty wage or no job at all.
A new report from the left-leaning think tank Demos reveals the structures of inequality that keep women like Myrick at the lowest rungs of the Big Box retail labor force. Today, researchers found, roughly 1.3 million women working retail jobs live in or near poverty; a typical woman salesperson earns just $10.58 an hour. On top of utterly low wages, women in retail, including many family breadwinners, face a stunning gender gap, typically earning only 72 cents for every dollar earned by male counterparts. That’s a cumulative annual wage deficit of $40.8 billion, equivalent to $381 billion in “lost wages” for women by 2022.
Click to enlarge (Courtesy: Demos)
The losses run deeper than their paycheck. Workers skip doctor’s visits because they lack paid leave time and scrimp on groceries to pay the bills. With just 5 percent of retail workers granted paid parental leave, new parents are pressured to rush back to work, potentially jeopardizing their newborn’s health. These day-to-day hardships tax public resources, too, as working-poor families absorb public funds in the form of food stamps, Medicaid and other public assistance programs.