Friday, July 07, 2006

The Wal-Mart Effect by Charles Fishman - 3

That Wal-Mart has driven jobs overseas is an understatement.
To survive n the face of the sort of pricing demands Wal-Mart made of Vlasic, Huffy, Lovable, and Levi Strauss, some consumer products companies have had to lay off employees and close U.S. plants in favor of outsourcing products overseas.
In the 1980's I clearly remember Wal-Mart being proud that they sold 'American-made' items. It was a major part of their marketing. Forward to 2004: Wal-Mart now imports 18 billion dollars worth of Chinese-made goods.
"People say, how can it be bad for things to come into the United States cheaply? How can it be bad to have a bargain at Wal-Mart?
Simple really, you need a job that pays a living wage to buy stuff.

And what about those overseas jobs and factories?
The problem isn't callous, greedy, and inhumane factory managers. "Wal-Mart is itself the reason for the inhumane conditions," the suit alleges. "It uses its vast market power to insist on low unit prices that are possible only if workers are squeezed to such an extreme degree that they can barely survive the long hours and low wages they are forced to endure."
But Wal-Mart will tell you that they have ethical standards for overseas manufacturers and that they inspect the factories of Wal-Mart suppliers. That is true. But:
Yes, the factory inspections team did 12,500 inspections, but only 8 percent of them were surprise inspections.
In 2004, 8,900 out of 11,500 scheduled inspections of overseas factories revealed serious violations in factories that knew in advance that Wal-Mart inspectors were coming.

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