Friday, April 14, 2006

Oprah and Minimum Wage

Oprah is taking on the minimum wage topic. Could you live 30 days on just $5 an hour? For millions of people, this is reality. No credit, no savings…life on minimum wage.

Being aired today I think. Go here to view short video and read more about 'Inside the Lives of People Living on Minimum wage'.

Also, one of Oprah's recommended books 'The Betrayal of Work: How Low-Wage Jobs Fail 30 Million Americans By Beth Shulman' here.

Dispels some of the 'myths' of low wage jobs:

that most low-wage workers are teenagers, immigrants, or high-school dropouts

that being in low-wage employment is a stepping stone to a better position

that making bad jobs into good jobs requires insurmountably difficult reforms

that low-wage work is always low-skilled

Wal-Mart 'Botox'

From the

Wal-Mart's ambitious plan for upgrading rundown stores calls for remodeling 1,800 of them in 18 months by adding mock-hardwood flooring in the apparel area, widening aisles and upgrading bathrooms. Wal-Mart will improve the layout and fixtures in the electronics, apparel and baby departments.

Wal-Mart is also going to increase the number of it's part-time employee's from 20% to 40%. HSBC Holdings PLC called Wal-Mart's remodeling plans 'botox', arresting decline but not relaunching growth.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Voters for Change Request Village to Stop Rezoning

Voters for Change, a local progressive political action group, formally requested that the SL Village Board stop the process of rezoning the village sandpit area.

Since the SEQR process is already ~80% complete and the consultants paid, SL Mayor Tom Micheal said it "makes more sense to move forward".

Read more here at WNBZ news.

Wall Street and Wal-Mart

It seems Wall St. thinks Wal-Mart could do better in a couple of areas.

What's more, some Wal-Mart watchers say investors are becoming increasingly frustrated that the company's spending an inordinate amount of time trying to diffuse its public relations crises and not giving enough attention to improving weak spots in its business.

A couple of recommendations include:

Bolster labor relations

As the nation's biggest private employer with 1.3 million workers, Wal-Mart has become an easy target for union-backed groups critical of its pay and benefits.

That means that Wal-Mart needs to make a dedicated and even more visible push to better its relationship with workers, and with communities where it does business.

Attract new customers

Last but not least, Wal-Mart's got to think outside of its "big-box" if its wants to win new customers and rejuvenate growth, said Love Goel, CEO of Growth Ventures, an investment firm focused on retailers.

Why can't Wal-Mart management see these issues?

An Associate - Revisited

A visit to Working At Wal-Mart is enlightening. First written anonymously by 'An Associate' (so he wouldn't be fired I imagine), 23 year old Josh Smith talks about his experiences as a Wal-Mart 'Associate'.

On October 12th, 2005 I was hired as an associate at WAL-MART Supercenter #2046 in Augusta, ME. As a temporary (and later part-time) hire, I averaged 32 hours per week at $7.40 per hour, with no benefits. My hours were erratic and I worked throughout the store as a cashier and door guard, in customer service and layaway, and at times even helping the stockmen and sales floor associates. All the while I witnessed the company cheat their employees out of benefits and raises, ignore workplace safety hazards, rig charitable-giving totals, engage in gender discrimination... It didn't take much of this for me to realize how difficult a job this truly is, especially given the intense pressure, the culture of fear, and the utter lack of respect handed down by the company. But I think what makes this job nearly unbearable is that, at the end of the day, despite working for the largest corporation in the world, these workers must return home to a life of poverty.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

ADE Commentary - The Broadway-Depot St. Market Place

In yesterday’s Adirondack Daily Enterprise there is a commentary by Frank Casier entitled ‘The Broadway-Depot St. Market Place’. Mr. Casier suggests reviving a plan to redevelop a deteriorated area in Saranac Lake.

Mr. Casier writes:

“The area lies between Broadway and the railroad tracks, behind the fire house, Adirondack Tire, the Adult Center and other properties. It extends from Depot Street almost to Cedar Street, adjacent to the renovated Railroad Depot.”

This is the largest, mostly open, piece of property in the downtown area of Saranac Lake. It used to be a coal yard, a lumber yard, and a train yard. The property is made up of small parcels owned by at least a dozen people. It is currently hidden from the view of most passers-by except those that ride the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. It is an ideal area for re-development. According to Mr. Casier, the village board approved the re-development of the Depot Street area as long ago as August 13, 1979.

Mr. Casier goes on to say:

“It is a matter of setting better priorities and making more intelligent decisions to fulfill the community’s greatest needs. Wal-Mart on Lake Flower is not the only choice.”

Mr. Casier, a land developer in his own right, points out that “there are government agencies such as Urban Renewal that could be brought into the effort.” That is certainly a possibility. But wouldn’t it be better if Wal-Mart actually worked with village officials to develop this downtown area? The positive PR it would give Wal-Mart would probably be worth as much as they pay Edelman and Crosslink Strategy Group for one years worth of propaganda.

Wal-Mart, build a smaller store in the downtown area and you will be welcomed into Saranac Lake by at least 80% of the residents. Who knows, even the other 20% of us might come around sooner or later. However, as someone has previously pointed out in comments on this blog, Wal-Mart does not seem to be interested in doing small and they do not seem to be interested in locating in downtown business areas - Rutland, VT being at least one exception.

There is a piece of news from the WNBZ website that pre-dates this blog. As pointed out by Mr. Casier, this concerns a message delivered to the Harrietstown board by Mr. Parker, Kurtz, Drury and McCormick last February.

"Considering Wal-Mart’s plans to come to Saranac Lake are still in the initial stages, Parker said the mega-retailer might be convinced to locate in the downtown. “If we can show them the possibility of doing a downtown alternative, we could get their ear,” he said.

Parker noted that Wal-Mart has been experimenting in recent years with fitting its stores into smaller sites. He said there are at least three locations in Saranac Lake’s downtown that the company could consider. “This could be a flagship store for them,” he said."
You can read it all here.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Wal-Mart PR - Working Families for Wal-Mart

In recent weeks, Wal-Mart has been asking thousands of their shoppers to join 'Working Families for Wal-Mart'. Fill out a form and support your local Wal-Mart but don't ask exactly where the information is going because it's going to a Washington-based consulting firm with close ties to the Republican Party.

"I just filled out the paper," said Tamymy Ramos, 27, who signed up outside of a Wal-Mart on Saturday after a shopping trip with her 3-year-old daughter.

Ramos, a native of Brazil, wasn't sure what she would get in exchange for giving up her name, address and e-mail address. "He told me, but I forgot. Maybe some coupons," she guessed.

Read more here.

She is actually giving her information to Edelman PR, a global public relations firm and to consulting firm Crosslink Strategy Group, founded by Terry Nelson.

McCain Strategist Terry Nelson supervised James Tobin during New Hampshire phone jamming scandal; Tobin convicted of federal telephone arassment charges. McCain strategist Terry Nelson served as middleman in DeLay TRMPAC money laundering scheme, named in indictment and had to testify. More here and here.

Draw your own conclusions about how Wal-Mart sucks its customers into 'grassroots' organizations.