Monday, November 21, 2005

Walmart=Bad

If you weren't fortunate enough to have lunch with the gang this afternoon, you missed a spirited discussion about Walmart. I'm not going to rehash the whole debate here, but I do want to address a single point raised by Matt. His point was (basically) as follows:

Why does everyone rag on Walmart? It is doing the same stuff as any other large business in America. We only focus on Walmart because they are so large. WalMart is not the devil and it is not single handedly destroying America.

This is a huge oversimplification of what he was saying, but I was doing a sudoku so I didn't catch everything. Here is my response:
Even if every business in the country is carrying out the same practices as WalMart, and perhaps there are many more aggregious offenders, and even if what they are doing is not illegal, it still makes sense to focus on WalMart. For those of us (not including myself) who believe in helping people when we think they are being treated poorly by the free market, it makes sense that we would want to use our resources to help as many people as possible. Because WalMart is the largest private employer in the country, it would be stupid for us NOT to focus on WalMart. If we can get WalMart to change their labor practices, a huge number of people would be benefited. It is simply an efficient use of our activist resources.

As a personal note to Matt, if you could correct my paraphrase of your position I would appreciate it. (Incidently, Matt is sitting right next to me, but we're in class and so cannot discuss the matter)

6 Comments:

Blogger warm fuzzy said...

Walmart is indeed bad. I have not shopped there in 1 year, 10 months and 21 days. It is a wonderful feeling!

1:59 PM  
Anonymous nell said...

I'm proud to say that I have never shopped at WalMart and never will. I don't go to MacDonalds either.

4:31 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

First, let me say that I agree that Walmart's legal infractions deserve attention and litigation/penalties as appropriate.

My problem's with the fetishization of Walmart. WM is not fundamentally different from other businesses.

Without Walmarts, people would still be working shit jobs for shit pay and leading miserable lives that end in the grave.

Walmart is not, as its detractors portray it, the cause of undending misery in the heartland. It even has some good things going for it - like cheap prices that make goods more affordable for the poor.

If you boycott Walmart, then I have to ask if you've given up driving. I mean, oil profits are being used to oppress large numbers of people in ways more concrete than Walmart's being cheap to its employees.

Would you rather be a poor woman working at Walmart or a poor woman in Saudi Arabia? Why boycott Walmart but not the pump?

Oil profits finance terror, the murder of innocents. Does Walmart making promo videos encouraging its workers not to unionize rise to anything like the same level?

Now, I do think that the working poor get a shitty lot in this country, but that's not Walmart's fault, and nothing we say or do to Walmart is going to change that situation. Those problems would best be addressed by some good social programs - affordable health care, cheap and good education (including free higher education).

10:33 PM  
Blogger warm fuzzy said...

"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do." ~Edward Everett Hale

I don't see why if we we don't boycott oil we can't boycott Walmart. Unfortunately, not all of us have the luxury of riding the bus or bikes to work. I wish we did, but I can look at what I do have the power to do and do it.

I have seen the destruction Wal-mart can cause. In the small town surrounding my family's farm, I've seen Wal-mart come in and undersell until virtually nothing was left. For over a year there was no grocery store becuase Wal-mart's undercutting of prices led it to go out of business. When the mom and pop stores are no more, where do mom and pop have to work? Wal-mart. According to New York Review of Books 12/16/04 (from http://walmartwatch.com/), the average yearly take home for a Walmart worker is 14,000/year. That's not a shift job that is more or less the same.

Walmart is bad. They treat their employees poorly (as an ex-employee of 2 walmart stores I can attest to this.) They basically act as if their workers are theives in waiting. They have crappy health insurance. They did not want to work around my college schedule (they repeatedly scheduled me for when I was in class, and ultimatley I had to quit).

If we can do nothing else, we can stop shopping at Walmart.

8:02 AM  
Blogger Xeno said...

Wall-mart is indeed evil. I have no problems with corporations in general but I do with wall-mart. They move directly to small communities and sell their merchandise at less than cost to drive competitors out of business. They only replace a fraction of the jobs they cost the community, at a poverty wage to boot.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Fishfrog said...

Matt said: "If you boycott Walmart, then I have to ask if you've given up driving. I mean, oil profits are being used to oppress large numbers of people in ways more concrete than Walmart's being cheap to its employees."

Protesting is a scarce resource. It makes sense to use our limited ability to protest in the way it might be most effective. WalMart may not be the worst thing in the world, but it is the largest private employer in the United States. If we can get WalMart to increase wages or offer better health insurance, the individuals who would be better off would be a substantial number.

I also think that the connection between me buying gas and Al Qaeda killing people is more attenuated than the connection between WalMart and the oppression of the American underclass.

8:56 PM  

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