The Who’s Better Off Game:Retail Sales Workers

Critics have suggested that America is becoming a Wal-Mart economy — a nation of part-time employees earning meager wages and getting few benefits — and nowhere is that contention better supported than in Wal-Mart’s own sector, retail. While the budget-priced giant is growing, there are fewer Americans working in retail every year, and those who still have jobs are earning less and less…

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Wal-Mart remains a retail powerhouse, and the health of the general retail industry largely reflects the health of the Arkansas-based discount giant. That’s bad news for retail employees.

As Wal-Mart has grown, retail jobs and wages have declined. In 2000, there were more than 991,000 retail salespeople working in the U.S. By mid 2003, that number had dropped to just over 961,000 — a dip of more than 3 percent. And wages remain low — among the lowest of any group in the nation. Today, the average annual salary for retail salespeople remains below $20,000, and real income has grown by only about 1.5 percent since Bush took office.

Cashiers are doing slightly better — no surprise, as the retail growth has been driven by companies like Wal-Mart that employ more cashiers than actual salespeople. Still, wages for cashiers remain crushingly low — less than $17,000 a year nationwide — and real income growth has hovered below 1 percent.

In some states, like Ohio and Michigan, retail workers are doing particularly poorly. In Ohio, nearly 10 percent of all salespeople jobs were eliminated between 2000 and 2003, while 3.5 percent of cashier jobs in Michigan were lost.

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Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

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Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

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Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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