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The worldwide corporation name, Wall-Mart, Is best known for its endless selection of products for sale and their everyday lowest prices In town. Unfortunately these attractive characteristics arise from the act of breaking 18th century philosopher’s ethical theories. Wall-Mart Is guilty of using their employees and suppliers as a mere means to an ends for the highest corporate profits possible each quarter. Their practices alienate their employees from their work efforts and break the principle formulation of act utilitarianism.
Wall-Mart’s negation to these ethical theories shows that they need to be held accountable for treating their workers immorally. A German philosopher by the name of, Emmanuel Kant, developed two types of categorical imperatives in the late 18th century. He classified his first imperative as hypothetical which states; if you want something, then you have to do this to achieve it. To Kant this imperative was wrong because of its lack of moral value. This lead to the progression of his second type of categorical Imperative, moral imperatives.
Here he developed the Idea that If you want something, then you ought to do this to achieve It. From here Kant realized three different types of moral Imperatives; following the universal law, treating humans as ends In themselves, and acting as Is you live in a “Kingdom of Ends”. With regards to his second moral imperative Kant states, “Never act in such a way as to treat people merely as a means to an end, but rather treat them as ends in themselves. ” (Kant). This should always be done to promote equality throughout society and develop a standard of moral goodness between fellow beings.
A closer look at the corporation in question, Wall-Mart, will rove their actions are blatantly immoral since they clearly coincide with Cant’s hypothetical imperative and disagree with his second moral imperative. Like any other corporation, Wall-Mart’s bottom line and main focus Is to maximize their overall profits In any given quarter. This comes at the cost of following Cant’s hypothetical Imperative, one of which he believed to be wrong. The goal has been set, Wall-Mart strives to make as much money as possible at all times and they will do almost anything to achieve it.
The biggest factor for making this happen is minimizing the hourly wage given to their employees. An example of just how tight everyday expenses can become under Wall-Mart’s wages is publicized in the case study, Working at Walter’ by Barbara Rehiring. Barbara states, “One of the rules is that our shirts have to have collars, so they had to be pools, not tees. ” (Rehiring)Pig. 184. She goes on, “At $7 an hour, a $7 shirt is Just not going to make it to my shopping list. ” (Rehiring)Pig. 184.
This makes obvious that Wall-Mart is setting a standard for their employees that is barely achievable while working at Wall-Mart. Another large negative resultant of the low wages is the inability of their employees to afford enough food, let alone healthy food, for themselves and commonly the rest of the family. Because of this a majority of Wall-Mart’s employees require food stamp contributions from the government to malting a desired standard of living. Here Is the proof of Cant’s hypothetical imperative being present in Wall-Mart’s actions.
In the point of many of them require food stamps to get by. If Wall-Mart were to do the morally correct thing and follow Cant’s second categorical imperative they would be maximizing their profits under the constraint of providing properly for their under credited employees. It is undoubtedly clear that Wall-Mart could provide for their employees but instead they make movement in the opposite direction by taking a stance against the Living-Wage bill. So the hardship continues and the employees at the mega-chain in the United States cost the country roughly $6. Billion dollars annually in public assistance programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing (Mckay, 2014). It must be noted that a majority of the food stamps and tax payer dollars are walking right back through Wall-Mart’s front doors and spent on products with the absolute lowest prices in town whom profit the reason why so many people are in need of assistance in the first place. A great visualization of Wall-Mart’s lack of compassion for their work force is shown in the short video, ‘If Walter Paid Its Employees a Living Wage, How Much Would Prices Go Up? By Slate Video found on You Tube.
It explains that industry analysts have estimated a cashier’s average wage to be about $8. 81 per hour leading to the need of government assistance for food stamps. If Wall-Mart were to provide a livable wage for these positions it would need to raise that hourly wage from $8. 81 to $13. 63 per hour. This might sound like a lot, nearly double but this money could be generated from a very small 1. 4% price raise on all products. The most dramatic price change is shown as the minuet one cent increase on a box of Kraft Dinner (Mckay, 2014). Unfortunately raising prices for any reason it seems is out of the question.
Wall-Mart’s marketing department stands for everyday low prices no matter the cost, even at the expense of their own employees. This is concrete evidence the mega mart is using their employees merely as a means to an end. One could argue that no one is forcing them ND that it is the employee’s choice to work at Wall-Mart but this isn’t so simply put. For most of the people working there it is their last resort. Without education and training it can be hard to find work in a pressed economy resorting in people accepting any Job they can find who is willing to hire.
The predicted loss in sales that prevents Wall-Mart from providing a livable wage to their cashiers might even be returned from an increase in shoppers once they realize Wall-Mart is now providing for their employees. Redirecting their efforts to coincide with Cant’s moral imperative would prove to be rewarding in the long run. Continuing our critique of Wall-Mart’s actions we can see they resemble another well known, negative ethical theory. In the 19th century, another German philosopher by the name of Karl Heimlich Marx developed the theory of alienation.
He divided the act of alienation of practical human activity, labor, into two aspects. His first division states, “The relationship of the worker to the product of labor as an alien object which dominates him. This relationship is at the same time the relationship to the sensuous external world, to natural objects, as an alien and hostile world” (Warned)Pig. 133. Wall-Mart employees feel they no longer have the ability to be the director of their own actions while at work. When people do not benefit from the value of service they are providing it results in feeling distant from society or alienated.
An example of this can be found in our case study Working at Walter’. Rehiring states, “Any leftover time is “Ugh, a no-brainier” (Rehiring)Pig. 180. Her viewpoint on zoning, as recommended by Caroline, implies the task at hand requires very little thought and in turn, provides next to no satisfaction. Monotonous tasks like this, recognized as alienation of the hind, dominate the worker and turns there enthusiasm into instructive behaviors. Mar’s second division of alienation progresses to say, “The relationship of labor to the act of production within labor.
This is the relationship of the worker to his own activity as something alien and not belonging to him as an activity which is directed against himself, independent of him and not belonging to him. ” (Warned)Pig. 133. A great number of the Job positions at Wall-Mart are filled by people who are there only because they have to be. Whether it is the Job market is too tight or someone doesn’t have adequate training for available Jobs, some employees feel like they are ‘stuck at Wall-Mart. This feeling of entrapment combined with long days, short breaks and repetitive tasks leaves the individual feeling alienated.
Rehiring declared, “Most of the time, the work requires minimal human interaction, of either the collegial or the supervisory sort, largely because it is so self- defining I could be a deaf mute as far as most of this goes” (Rehiring)Pig. 183. She describes her required duty as an activity of passive suffering, her personal physical and mental energy is being removed by her actions leaving her powerless (Marx). This kind of alienation is clearly visible throughout Wall-Mart’s employees and locations but these are things that need to be done.
Shirts and pants need to be picked up and put back in original places, as well do shopping carts and these people signed up to do them. Alienating tasks are a bit of a downfall on society but they are very necessary to maintain our current form. If Wall-Mart wanted to be a perfect example they would attack Mar’s theory of alienation with Cant’s second categorical imperative. To do this Wall-Mart could realize and identify the idea that a lot of their positions can create the feeling of alienation. Providing proper training for employees to make them aware of the problems they will endure would be a start.
Developing a work place hazard assessment program that addresses these kinds of problems and provides corrective action would build a better sense of community. This would help counteract the two aspects of alienation and prevent them from being produced elsewhere. Not providing these things for their employees will make clear the accusations of Wall-Mart treating their employees immorally are true. The last main ethical theory that Wall-Mart violates in the concept of utility. The concept of act utilitarianism was defined by John Stewart Mill, an English philosopher in the 19th century.
Mill declared, “The utility of an act is the result of subtracting the sum of the Dolores value of all the episodes of pain that would occur as consequences of that act from the sum of the hedonistic values of all the episodes of pleasure what would occur as consequences of that act. ” (Feldman)Pig. 29. From here he developed the principle form of act utilitarianism, 137. 1. 17 states, “An act is right if and only if there is no other act the agent could have done instead that has higher utility than it has. (Feldman)Pig. 30. Unfortunately Wall-Mart’s top departments measure the pleasure value of their acts by the amount of profit they produce.
The number of hoedown’s produced by a decision is directly linked to how much profit the decision of a new product or paying wage produces. Wall-Mart’s utility isn’t negatively affected by a is profits, situations like the unexplainable number of their employees living on the government food stamp program are actually increasing their utility. The utilitarianism viewpoint is that if the most basic moral rules are followed the actions will always produce more good over evil. Wall-Mart’s stand against the Livable-Wage bill is only producing more good for a small number of people and therefore stands against Mill’s theory of act utilitarianism.
If Wall-Mart increased their wages for entry level employees they would create more hoedowns from there employee’s while still making profits each year. If the number of hedonistic values lost by a decrease in profits is more than the number produced by removing all of their hard working employees off the government food stamp program, one cannot deny their actions are immoral. There is no better example in today’s economy of someone being used as a mere means to an end. Wall-Mart’s bottom line is maximizing profits and this comes at the cost of violating many well-known ethical theories.
Their imposition of Cant’s second imperative, their production of alienation, and their stand against the principle form of act utilitarianism shows an immoral relationship between Wall-Mart and its employees and suppliers. The way they treat their employees maximizes their profits at the cost of burdening society.