New York Times columnist Timothy Egan fired back at Wal-Mart on Monday after the retailer posted a scathing criticism of one of his columns on a company blog.
In an email to Business Insider, Egan defended his reporting — which Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar had called “wildly inaccurate” — and said the company’s complaints lacked concrete evidence of factual errors.
Egan’s column, which ran in Sunday’s New York Times, called Wal-Mart a “net drain on taxpayers, forcing employees into public assistance with its poverty-wage structure” and argued that Wal-Mart could afford to pay its employees more.
“My central point was how much their business model costs taxpayers, and makes the income gap worse,” Egan told Business Insider. “Exhibit A is what they pay their executive and what average employees make. I cited a Democratic study on Wisconsin, where they actually went through [Wal-Mart’s] payroll and found how many Wal-Mart workers were on some form of public assistance. Also, for what it’s worth, I did hear from a number of Wal-Mart workers who wrote and told me I only scratched the surface on how miserly they are.”
In response to the column, Wal-Mart’s Tovar accused Egan of making false statements and incomplete arguments in a blog post riddled with sarcasm.
“It seems pretty snarky for a company that puts Smiley buttons on every piece of Chinese-made crap they sell,” Egan wrote of Tovar’s response. “I didn’t see anything concrete, except the dispute over exactly how much they pay [employees] — which is in dispute. I cited two independent studies on their average worker’s pay… One was $US8.81 an hour. The other [was under $US11 an hour]. Wal-Mart says [it pays] $US12 plus an hour, but critics say that is skewed, and they don’t include part time workers, a huge part of their workforce. In any event, no resolution there until they open their books.”
The studies Egan cited were by IBISWorld and Payscale.
Wal-Mart says full-time hourly associates are paid an average of $US12.91 per hour. When part-time workers are included, the average hourly wage falls to $US11.83, according to the company.
Egan acknowledged the conflicting reports on Wal-Mart’s wages in his column, writing, “No matter the exact figure, there’s no dispute that Walmart’s business model forces thousands of hard-working people to look for outside help just to get by.”
Read Egan’s full column below, as well as Tovar’s response, which is written in red.
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