Friday, August 04, 2006

Bus Tour Stories

WakeUpWalmart started a bus tour of the USA last Tuesday. It's purpose is to educate citizens about corporate responsibility, living wages and a fair workplace. Yeah, yeah, I know that Wakeupwalmart is funded by the evil unions and it's not fair for workers to band together to fight multi-billion dollar corporations. Afterall, Wal-Mart has an 'open door policy'. And, that the bus tour is more about politics than people (Wal-Mart talking point). It never ceases to amaze me that Wal-Mart, the largest, richest company on earth, whines about being picked on. But be that as it may, here are a couple of stories concerning the bus tour.

Long, Hot Summer for Wal-Mart by Liza Featherstone (BTW, she points to a link to a story at Fortune Magazine concerning Wal-Mart and goal to clean up its environmental record.

The Bus tour's Baltimore stop.

Wal-Mart's paid PR lackies at Edelman's 'Paidcritics' are very upset about all this political nonsense. Afterall, it's Democrat politicians showing up at the bus tour stops and not Republicans.

Wal-Mart has a lot more money invested in Republican senators and congressmen including our own John Sweeney and John McHugh than they do in Democrat congressmen and women. They depend on Republicans to prevent a minimum wage hike and to promote the abolishment of the Estate Tax.

Percentage of Wal-Mart PAC money to Republicans in 2000 was 85%, 2002 was 78%, 2004 was 78% and thus far in 2006 is 70% (they need to start buying some Democrats now that the winds appear to be shifting).

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Daily Show's Lewis Black on the Wal-Mart Movie

Wal-Mart, Salmon and Environmental Defense

This post (on The Writing On the Wal blog), concerning Environmental Defense opening an office in Bentonville, AR, immediately caught my attention today.

Wal-Mart has started a campaign to be more environmentally friendly because it saves the company money in the long run and gives them badly needed PR. You can read all about the new 'green' Wal-Mart here.
In Wal-Mart’s case, Environmental Defense was one of several groups Wal-Mart contacted in early 2005 to help formulate a green policy unveiled by Scott last October. Under that plan, Wal-Mart set goals of using 100 percent renewable energy, creating zero waste and selling more products that sustain the environment.
Environmental Defense is the group that got MacDonald's to stop using styrofoam containers in packaging their food. So they can be an effective organization. They often use economic arguments to convince companies that it is cost-effective to do what is right concerning the environment. However, it's easy for Wal-Mart to require that suppliers not let their truck engines idle while making deliveries or to change store lighting to save on energy costs. But other recommended changes may require Wal-Mart to do things that are against the Wal-Mart 'Always low prices, always' culture.

Wal-Mart is one of the biggest sellers of farmed seafood in the world, but they have been criticized (a chapter from Charles Fishmans book, The Wal-Mart Effect) for the effects on the environment of these fish farms, especially salmon farms in Chile. [Note: careful about reading this article, you may never eat farmed salmon again.] Environmental Defense on the other hand, has an ongoing campaign to change the fish farming industry. Environmenal Defense goes so far as to claim that eating farmed salmon could be harmful to your health. Several months ago, Wal-Mart vowed to only sell fish obtained from environmentally sound sources.
The world's largest retailer has pledged that all of its U.S. fresh and frozen fish, excluding farmed fish, will eventually come from fisheries certified as being "sustainable" by the Marine Stewardship Council, meaning that the sea areas they come from are not being over-fished.
So here is a question for Environmental Defense and for Wal-Mart. (1) Is Wal-Mart going to require it's suppliers of farmed salmon to follow the salmon fish farming recommendations of Environmental Defense? (2) Will Wal-Mart allow the fish farmers to raise their prices to cover these changes?

Lee Scott wants the fish farming industry to raise it's standards, but the fish farming industry farms the way it does because Wal-Mart forces them to cut costs.
Part of the reason Wal-Mart can sell a salmon fillet for $4.84 is that, as Leape puts it, "they don't internalize all the costs." Pollution ultimately costs money--to clean up, to prevent, to recover from. But right now those costs aren't in the price of a pound of Chilean salmon. (From the Fishman article)
An MSNBC web poll shows that 61% of respondents don't believe that Wal-Mart will live up to its environmental pledge.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Couple Wal-Mart Parodies

Thrall-Mart Always low standards, always. Brought to you by 'Cracked'.


Ballston, NY Rejects Wal-Mart

From the Albany Times Union:
The Town Council said "game over" Tuesday to Wal-Mart and its plans to build a super center on Route 50.
By a unanimous vote, the council rejected Wal-Mart's application, resulting in an eruption of cheers and standing ovations from residents.

Before the vote, Albany attorney Mary Beth Slevin, who represented Wal-Mart's proposal, said the retail giant looked forward to working with the Town Council. She was unavailable for comment after the vote.

Councilwoman Mary Beth Hynes, meanwhile, had challenged fellow board members to take a position on the proposed Wal-Mart.

"I urge my fellow board members to join me tonight in sending an unambiguous message that, as far as the town of Ballston is concerned, the door will be closed to Wal-Mart and big-box development once and for all," she said in a prepared statement.

Wal-Mart Discussion on Local TV

Mountain Lake PBS will air a panel discussion on the local Wal-Mart issue this Friday evening at 8:30 PM. It will be an episode of Mountain Lake Journal and the panel will consist of Brian Mann (NCPR), Jack LaDuke (WCAX-TV) and Peter Crowley (Adirondack Daily Enterprise). I believe the episode will also be shown on Saturday at 7 PM.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Wal-Mart Job or Manufacturing Job?

1954: Huffy opens the Celina, Ohio, plant. At its peak, the plant produced 1 million bikes a year.

1998: Pressure from Wal-Mart forces Huffy to close the bicycle plant in Celina, putting 1,100 employees out of work. The jobs were moved to a nonunion factory in Missouri.

1999: Huffy, pressured to continue lowering costs, closes its last two U.S. bicycle plants—in Farmington, Mo., and Southaven, Miss. The move eliminates 600 jobs. The company contracts with fac-tories in Mexico and China.

2001: Huffy ends its manufacturing contracts with Mexico and begins relying almost entirely onfactories in China, where Chinese workers earn only 33 cents an hour and frequently work sevendays a week.

Wal-Mart creates good jobs? I bet Ruth Schumacher and her husband would disagree. Now Mr. and Mrs. Schumacher are dependent on Wal-Mart's everyday low prices.
Laid-off factory worker Ruth Schumacher rises before the sun most days and earns $7 per hour tending the breakfast bar at a Holiday Inn in Celina, Ohio. She would like to set out a tip jar for the occasional dollar, but management forbids it.

After work, she occasionally goes next door to shop at Wal-Mart or at Kmart one town away.

“They’ve got real good bargains,” she said of Wal-Mart, echoing a generation of thrifty shoppers.

Never mind that Wal-Mart is a major reason Schumacher no longer has a $12-per-hour job at Huffy Corp.’s bicycle plant. Five years ago, Wal-Mart pressured Huffy to lower the cost of its bikes, so Huffy closed its Celina plant. Schumacher’s job and the job her husband held at Huffy eventually ended up in China.
Wal-Mart's response?
“We are in business to take care of the customer,” spokeswoman Melissa Berryhill said. “We are going to do what we need to do to deliver everyday low prices to our customers, and we are going to go where we have to go in order to do that.”
So to get low prices Wal-Mart ships good jobs overseas thereby creating more poor people that need their everyday low prices. Excellent strategy.

Maybe if we all get minimum wage jobs, Wal-Mart will give their stuff away.

Questions Wal-Mart's Effect on the Economy

Speaking from the heartland, Etson Hougland, suggests that Wal-Mart should be under greater scrutiny:
Wal-Mart not only dictates the price, it also dictates the terms, conditions, source and in some cases the material used in the products it purchases. It has been the leading exponent of forcing American firms to move production of products to a Communist “slave labor” state – China. It is using its economic power to orchestrate the destruction of American industry. Its economic power is used to destroy local independent merchants in virtually every community in which it operates.

In conjunction with this power, Wal-Mart provides substandard pay, medical and retirement benefits to its hundreds of thousands of employees while denying them the option of obtaining union representation. The Bush administration has taken countless legal steps designed to weaken the power of labor and destroy any vestige of legal representation for the working people of this nation. This policy combined with a suicidal unfair trade policy has allowed multinational corporations to exploit slave labor in order to undermine our nation’s entire economic and benefits system.
He goes on to point out that China deliberately pegs it's currency at a very low value resulting in products being imported into the USA 30-40% below their actual value.

I'm no fan of GW Bush, but I think others deserve more credit for the current state of labor (Reagan). But Bush hasn't done a whole lot to get the Chinese to more fairly adjust the value of their currency against the US dollar either.

He does make the point that we need more insight into the effects of Wal-Mart on our economy. Charles Fishman (The Wal-Mart Effect) did not get much help from Wal-Mart when writing his book. Wal-Mart Corporation is famously secretive. Fishman couldn't even get Wal-Mart suppliers to comment on their relationships with Wal-Mart.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Wal-Mart in China Creates a Union

Canadian Wal-Mart workers unionized in Jonquiere,Quebec. Wal-Mart promptly closed the store. Now Chinese Wal-Mart workers have formed a union.
The Wal-Mart workers were reported to have set up the union in Jinjiang, Quanzhou, in Fujian province.
Will Wal-Mart close that store? I doubt it. Wal-Mart can't afford to alienate China.