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Walmart Batting Essay

953 words - 4 pages

Battling Wal-Mart
by Neal Peirce The Wal-Mart Watch campaign, a labor-environmental group highly critical of America's mega-mega retailer, recently launched more than 1,000 events nationwide for its "Higher Expectations Week." "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price," a scathing documentary by independent filmmaker Robert Greenwald with a focus on Wal-Mart's business tactics and treatment of workers, began to play to audiences across the country. Wal-Mart is fighting its critics with waves of television ads celebrating happy workers and the company's gifts to local charities. But the action goes much further. Across state capitals, legislators are into spirited debates over whether Wal-Mart ...view middle of the document...

But something even bigger seems to be happening. Wal-Mart has become the

poster child for an era of unfettered globalized corporate operations -- "a destabilizing business model, a dangerous detriment to America's local and national economies and to the middle class," in the words of critic Leo Hindery Jr. He's former CEO of the telecom carrier Global Crossing and an active figure in Democratic Party politics. At a recent Washington conference organized by the Center for American Progress, Hindery noted that as recently as 1992 (the year of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton's death), the Business Roundtable of top business leaders was saying that corporations had a major responsibility not just to stockholders but to their employees, society at large, and the nation's economy. But now, Hindery says the Business Roundtable -- and most of the corporate world -- focuses almost exclusively on profits for stockholders. Wal-Mart leads and embodies the trend in three ways, he says: The "clobbering" of Main Streets when Wal-Mart moves to one of its usual edge-of-town locations. "The miserable wage and benefits package offered by Sam Walton's creation." Wal-Mart's buying strategy, focused on cheaply produced foreign goods, a total reversal of Walton's "Buy America" advocacy. The reply of economists friendly to Wal-Mart is based, like the company's promotions, almost exclusively on low prices and efficiency. According to a Wal-Mart-commissioned study by Global Insight, a respected economicforecasting firm, low Wal-Mart prices saved consumers $263 billion last year. Wal-Mart defenders say that's "progressive" because the benefits flow principally to low-income families who shop at discount stores. But the real choice, says Harry Holzer, former chief economist for the U.S. Labor Department, is between "lower-road" employer strategies focused, such as Wal-Mart, on low wages regardless of high employee turnover, versus a "higher-road" strategy by employers focused on higher worker productivity...

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