The Votes Are In!

by Justice for Janitors on December 22, 2004

Wal-Mart elected “Grinch of the Year” for 2004

Cintas and Comcast are runners-up in our national contest to determine who did the most harm to workers and their families this year. More than 2,300 of you voted in our fourth annual ‘Grinch of the Year’ contest, and over 60% voted to elect retailing giant Wal-Mart as this year’s winner. Thanks for your votes! We plan to deliver the award to Wal-Mart sometime next year, and our hope that this “honor” will help to draw attention to the abuses of this mega-corporation.

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-Mart’s low road strategy.”

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 .

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

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 . 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 .

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 .

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.

Filed under: Bay Area / California