Sprawl-Busters has written many stories about how Wal-Mart’s distribution center system has been built with public welfare — usually in the form of large infrastructure grants for roads, water and sewer. Job tax credits and other incentives have been squandered on the world’s richest retailer. Now Wal-Mart is getting cheap, below prevailing wage labor, courtesy of the state of Wisconsin. According to a report in the Capitol Times, state prison inmates on work release are helping to build a Wal-Mart distribution center in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Public inmates are working for a private corporation. The cheap labor is coming from the Fox Lake Correctional Institution. Prison guards drop the inmates off at the Wal-Mart construction site, and pick them up after work. The newspaper reports that 5 to 8 prisoners are working on the Wal-Mart at any time, and the project will go on for about three months. Wal-Mart’s contractor reportedly pays the workers only $9 an hour. The earnings don’t go to the workers, however, but go toward room, board and transportation reimbursement for the institution, and for child support payments, restitution and fines. So it’s really not a wage at all. “When wages are worked out, they are based on what the employer would pay somebody hired off the street,” a state Corrections official told the Times. “They are having a tough time hiring enough people from the general public to get the job done.” A spokesman for Laborers Local 330 based in Menasha, Wisconsin, said
that he would prefer that local residents be hired to do the work that the inmates are doing – for good wages with benefits. The construction contractor is not from Wisconsin, but from Idaho. Wal-Mart instructed them not to speak to reporters. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Workforce Development said prevailing wage rules do not apply to privately done projects. “A private entity such as Wal-Mart is not covered,” she said.
Proof once again that the Wal-Mart empire is built on exploited labor — this time conscripted from the local prison. According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Wal-Mart has received $2.2 million in state commerce and transportation aid and $7.8 million in local aid and tax breaks since 1999 to open distribution facilities in Tomah and Beaver Dam. For earlier stories about corporate welfare for Wal-Mart, search Newsflash by “welfare.”