PunditFact checks Wal-Mart workers on welfare claim

St. Petersburg, Florida -- Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, has taken a lot of hits lately because of what it pays employees. Portland, Oregon, recently rolled back its investments in the chain -- faulting Wal-Mart's labor practices.

Critics say many of the retailer's workers are forced to turn to public assistance, like food stamps and Medicaid, even though they have full-time jobs. One of them is MSNBC host Ed Schultz.

"Wal-Mart workers receive over $2 billion in government assistance each year," Schultz recently said on his program "The Ed Show." "This pencils out to over $1 million in public assistance per store. Easy to figure, isn't it? It's roughly $5,800 per Wal-Mart employer -- employee -- those folks that work there, you know?"

Wal-Mart's wages are not a new issue, but Punditfact said that $5,800 claim was higher than it had heard before. Fact checkers found the number was generated in 2012 by Democratic members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and it was based on figures from just one state, Wisconsin.

"The Democrats on this committee actually said, 'You can't take this information and apply it throughout the country. We were looking at one state and one sample store,'" said Katie Sanders of PunditFact. "Now all that said, there is a case to be made that a lot of Wal-Mart workers are on public assistance. But we've actually seen criticism that that's the way the welfare system is supposed to work. It's supposed to help people who are working have a more fulfilling life by having more access to health care and food stamps."

Punditfact says Schultz distorted a narrowly written report that acknowledged its own shortcomings. But since it contains an element of truth, it was rated MOSTLY FALSE.


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