Progress.org misleads readers comparing GM workers in 1962 to Walmart employees

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If you don’t identify your sources, why shouldn’t anyone believe the truthfulness of your statements?  By not qualifying statements, it’s very easy to mislead your reader.

I found an article on Prospect.org called Why You Shouldn’t Shop at on Wal-Mart on Friday.  You can tell what the article’s about based on the title, and the first sentence really annoyed me:

A half century ago America’s largest private-sector employer was General Motors, whose full-time workers earned an average hourly wage of around $50, in today’s dollars, including health and pension benefits.

I want to begin by pointing out that there are no citations whatsoever for this statement.  None.  Why should I take this author, Robert B. Reich, at his word?

Okay, but since I’m not going to even bother to research his claim, I’ll believe him.  Full-time workers earned an average of $50 an hour fifty years ago?  Let’s take a look at some of the facts…

Does this include every worker at GM?  Is this just the hourly employees who worked the lines or does it include others like engineers, management, and other professional fields?  Surely, this would bring the averages up.

Fifty years ago, $50 would be worth $6.53.  And really, that’s pretty good money back then, putting them in the top 17.7%.  But is this a little misleading?  I would say so since he’s including benefits payments in that number.  According to FactCheck.org, United Auto Workers (UAW) employees earned about $70 an hour in 2008.  But once again, that’s including benefits.  The actual hourly wage earned by UAW employees (in 2008) was about $29 an hour.  The $70 is also including benefits being earned by retired workers (the average is calculated by dividing the total monies being paid by only the number of employees currently working).  Is this method also how the pay was calculated for the GM workers in 1962?  I don’t know because the author didn’t cite anything or explain how any of this was calculated.

Does this 1962 value also include overtime?  Was that overtime given as straight time, time and a half?

The main point of this article is to compare what GM workers made in 1962 to Walmart workers today and claim that the lack of unionization for Walmart employees is the cause.  But how do you compare the two?  They’re not using the same metrics, so any comparisons made are skewed from the start.

Working at Walmart is a pretty low-skill job.  An autoworker, on the other hand, requires considerable training, knowledge, and marketable skills and would be paid accordingly.  So of course Walmart employees earn less—they’re so much easier to replace and almost anyone can perform the job.  Is it fair to compare what a doctor made in 1970 compared to a McDonald’s drive-thru attendant today?

If Walmart workers think they are worth more money, why don’t they find someone else to pay them more?  If no one is willing to pay them more money, then maybe Walmart’s offer is what they’re worth as workers.

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harold monke
Guest

Hard to imagine that Robert Reich was the Secetary of Labor. I do believe Bill Clinton knew what he wanted to achieve and he knew that Riech would serve as a useful tool for the Clinton agenda. These days though, Reich just appears to be a tool. Too bad, because that does not reflect well on Bill.

nonny mouse
Guest
“If Walmart workers think they are worth more money, why don’t they find someone else to pay them more? If no one is willing to pay them more money, then maybe Walmart’s offer is what they’re worth as workers.” Are you seriously kidding me? Finding another job in the States today is like playing musical chairs, only there are literally thousands chasing a single chair. And when the economy is so bad, and so controlled by mega-billionaires, they can exploit people to the point of near-slavery. To not only tell workers if you don’t like it, go find another job… Read more »
Rollo McFloogle
Guest
nonny mouse, I appreciate you took the time to comment…let me answer some of your concerns. Are you seriously kidding me? Finding another job in the States today is like playing musical chairs, only there are literally thousands chasing a single chair. And when the economy is so bad, and so controlled by mega-billionaires, they can exploit people to the point of near-slavery. We need to examine why this is the case. I despise the corporatism that controls the country’s economy. It is not representative of a free market but instead resembles more of a fascist economy. And so when… Read more »
Ida Byrd-Hill
Guest

Minimum wage jobs were never intended for people to live on. They are entry level jobs for young people
Living at home with parents. People need to work their way up the corporate ladder to generate a livable wage

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