Re: moral dilemma for George

From: Judy Seigel ^lt;[email protected]>
Date: 01/30/04-04:55:58 PM Z
Message-id: <>

A friend of mine thought George's Panglossian claims needed some
"checking," and typed "Walmart" into Lexis-Nexis and forwarded the stories
I excerpt here. (Friend said there were lots more, but I said, "enough.")

Newsday, Oct 26, 2003, Nassau & Suffolk edition, Pg A 8
Perils of Wal-Mart Way by Paul Vitello

...The No. 1 private employer in the United States used to be General
Motors and now it is Wal-Mart.
General Motors - where a line worker can make $25 an hour, plus benefits.
Wal-Mart - where the average worker makes $7.50 an hour, and may qualify
for food stamps.

.... Wal-Mart advertising describes this in patriotic hues of equal
opportunity. Flag-waving is practically a company policy. But if you read
the papers, you also know that cutting full-time work to the bare minimum,
increasing the size of the temporary work force, keeping out unions,
transferring the cost of health insurance to employees, eliminating
pension plans, and out-sourcing jobs to subcontractors are also company

....These are the well-known practices that have earned Wal-Mart the
adoration of its stockholders - and of Wall Street - and the mixed
emotions of people forced to compete against $7.50-an-hour workers in the
neighborhood but able to buy their tires, breakfast cereal and firearms
all in one place and at good prices.

... But how anyone on the planet could be surprised, then, that Wal-Mart
has undocumented workers cleaning its toilets is a mystery.
Wal-Mart executives themselves...said they were shocked last week when
federal immigration agents raided 61 of their stores, including one in
Centereach, and arrested 250 undocumented workers employed by janitorial

[A]ccording to Charles Kernaghan, head of a Manhattan-based labor rights
group called the National Labor Committee. "Wal-Mart is the biggest
sweatshop abuser in the world... All the people who make the toys and
electronics and clothing in these stores are employed by subcontractors,
most of them sweatshops. The subcontractors are hired by contractors who
are hired by Wal-Mart to fill orders. In Central America and Bangladesh -
countries whose gross national product is less than Wal-Mart's total
annual sales revenues - Wal-Mart gets a work force for which it has no
responsibility. They can throw them away when the work is done."

The New York Times, Nov. 10, 2003: section A, p.12, column 5
"2 Sides Seem Entrenched In Supermarket Dispute," by Stephen Greenhouse

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 8 ... Rosalyn Colvard, a grocery stocker, said she would
need help from welfare to make ends meet if Southern California's three
largest grocery chains won their four-week-old battle with 70,000 workers.

For the cashiers and stockers on the picket lines, the fight to fend off
large-scale concessions is a struggle to avoid being thrown into one of
America 's lowest castes, the working poor. But for the supermarkets, the
confrontation, the biggest labor dispute in the nation in recent years, is
a painful investment to ensure that they can survive against Wal-Mart and
other low-cost rivals.

"The stakes are enormous," said Ruth Milkman, chairwoman of the University
of California Institute for Labor and Employment. "If the employers
succeed in their effort to extract large concessions, they will turn these
into low-wage jobs, and other employers across the nation will see this as
a green light to try to do the same thing."

... The workers' [current] pay ranges from $7.40 an hour for baggers with
30 months on the job to a $17.90 maximum for cashiers. "If we lose this
fight, there go 70,000 jobs that will no longer be middle-class jobs,"
said Connie Leyva, president of the food workers' local in San Bernardino
County. "It would have huge ramifications on the economy of Southern

.... Ms. Colvard, the stocker, said management's demands to have workers
pay more for health insurance and to cut bonuses for working on Sundays
would leave her with too little money to support herself and her two
children. She said she was on welfare until 1996 when she took a job with
Albertsons, where she earns $12.17 an hour. Like most of the supermarket
workers, she is assigned just 24 to 32 hours a week, making her annual pay
around $18,000.

"Management's offer is fine if you live in less expensive states like
Florida or North Carolina, but it just won't cut it in California," she
said. "If I have to start paying more for my health coverage, I don't know
how I'm going to afford rent and food and clothes for my kids."

... The three chains have said that they need concessions because mighty
Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, will soon open the first of 40
grocery-selling supercenters planned for Southern California over the next
five years. Wal-Mart's grocery workers average less than $9 an hour....
[An analyst] said the California battle "would set a trend for the
supermarket industry in other regions," especially if a new contract
created a lower second tier.

....Many workers said that if management got its way, it would have huge
incentives to push out old employees to make way for lower paid new
workers. "The two-tier system means current employees will walk around
with a target on their head," said Mike Morales, a cashier in Pomona.

The Record (Bergen County, NJ), Nov. 27, 2003, pg. A 56

HEADLINE: Wal-Mart leaves competitors trembling; Low prices keep retailing
giant on top by Greg Schneider & Dina Elboghdady

As a young man, Roy Bukrim found a job that seemed better than working in
dangerous coal mines like his relatives: He hired on at the Kroger
supermarket, where 27 years later he's head night stocker and supports a
wife, two kids, and a mortgage.

But Bukrim, 48, figures he wouldn't have that career option today. Young
people who hire on now get minimum wage and no health benefits, then leave
after a few months. Bukrim said the future that he saw in grocery work no
longer exists. "We've been the generation where that's all changed."

To Bukrim and other workers - as well as Kroger Co. executives - the
juggernaut driving that change is the store's most-feared competitor,
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. "All we've heard is Wal-Mart this and Wal-Mart
that," said Kroger cashier Victoria Marano. "They want to be like Wal-Mart
so they can compete."

...The Oct. 23 arrest of 250 illegal aliens working for outside cleaning
crews at 61 Wal-Mart stores nationwide underscores another aspect of
Wal-Mart's low-price formula: a fervent effort to hold down labor costs.
The retailer said it has received a "target letter" from a federal grand
jury in Pennsylvania, signifying that Wal-Mart itself is under
investigation for its role in using illegal workers.

... Wal-Mart's vast, non-unionized work force earns a typical wage of
about $7 to $8 an hour.... As other retailers follow Wal-Mart's lead,
workers without technical training are feeling a tightening squeeze.
Low-skilled manufacturing jobs are vanishing at historic rates - West
Virginia's coalfield employment, for instance, plummeted from 59,700 jobs
in 1980 to 15,700 in 2000. Untrained people entering today's workforce the
way Bukrim did three decades ago have dwindling odds of reaching the
middle class....

...Wal-Mart's pressure to hold down labor costs also helps fuel the
national market for undocumented workers, immigrant advocates say, as
employers take advantage of laborers who are too fearful of being deported
to object to substandard wages and conditions. Rather than hire illegal
immigrants themselves, big chains typically turn a task such as janitorial
services over to a low-bidding national contractor, which in turn farms
the work out to smaller subcontractors. The subcontractors range from
established firms that rigorously check workers' immigration status to
one-man, fly-by-night operations that knowingly employ illegal workers,
labor experts say.

[For example]...24-year-old Russian immigrant Misha Firer [worked for] a
small company that cleaned a Wal-Mart in Pennsylvania. For two months, the
undocumented worker lived in a trailer park and buffed the store's floors
from midnight to 8 a.m. for $6 an hour - $1 of which was seized by his
boss, Firer said...

... "The less you pay [for labor], the lower your prices can be,"
Silverstein said. "The grocery store is a war zone, and the weak are going
down fast - and with them go a lot of jobs."

.... By 2007, [Walmart] should capture 35 percent of supermarket industry
sales and double the number of its supercenters to 2,250.
... Wal-Mart made up 30 percent or more of U.S. sales for Clorox Co.,
Gillette Co., Mattel Inc., and Procter & Gamble Co. in fiscal 2002,
according to Fitch Ratings.

[M]any Wal-Mart workers transfer the health care burden either to their
spouse's employer or to government agencies, the report said...

Mona Williams, Wal-Mart's chief spokeswoman said... Wal-Mart's entry-level
jobs "are not designed for someone who
is the sole support for a family" but for those looking to advance.

 New York Times, Aug. 14, 2003 Section C, pg. 1
THE MEDIA BUSINESS: ADVERTISING; Wal-Mart, Aware Its Image Suffers,
Studies Repairs, by Constance L. Hays

Wal-Mart, concerned about its public image, is using a consultant to
analyze that image and has commissioned radio and television ads to try to
reverse criticism from local officials, consumers and others.

... Wal-Mart, known for parsimony in its business practices, has invested
in "reputation research" -- using polling techniques, focus groups and
phone interviews -- and then spent more money to try to repair the
distressing aspects of what it found.

...The company's rapid growth and enormous economic influence [has caused]
scrutiny of Wal-Mart's penchant for hiring part-time workers as well as
its treatment of female employees, the subject of a pending federal
lawsuit, and its resistance to organized labor.

Community opposition to building Wal-Mart stores has been vociferous in
some places, and muttering is heard from time to time among manufacturers,
which say they are being constantly pressed to sell their goods to
Wal-Mart at low prices.

The project found that many people view Wal-Mart as a place of dead-end
jobs, and that its performance as a corporate citizen leaves much to be

Buffalo News (New York), Nov 22, 1002, business section pg B7

Labor rights activists rallied outside the Wal-Mart store on Transit Road
in Amherst Thursday, pressuring the retailer to raise pay for workers in
the U.S. and abroad. The rally, part of a "day of action" at 35 Wal-Marts
nationwide, was organized by the Coalition for Economic Justice, a
church-linked group, and Local One of the United Food and Commercial

With over 1 million workers nationwide, the Bentonville, Ark.-based
retailer is the nation's largest private employer.

[Maria White said] "Wal-Mart really has an opportunity to make a profound
difference in the U.S. economy by paying wages we feel are living wages,
and providing health insurance" ...Whyte said. The chain's average pay is
below the $8.08 standard the group considers to be a living wage for the
In addition, apparel for Wal-Mart's "Faded Glory" brand is made by
contractors in Bangladesh who pay less than the nation's legal minimum
wage of 34 cents an hour, Whyte said.

Boston Globe, Aug 22'02 3rd

LOSSES, EMPTY SPACES, by Sandy Coleman, Globe Staff.

... Ames Department Stores, unable to withstand the growing pressure
applied by national retail chains such as Wal-Mart and Target, is going
out of business. Thirty-four Ames stores will close in Massachusetts....
It means a loss of about 750 full- and part-time jobs. It also means
large empty retail spaces to fill.

....Beyond jobs and tax dollars, Ames employees say something more
precious will be lost. Some of them have worked in the same stores for
more than a decade. "I feel like I'm going to be leaving my family. . . .
It's like a little piece of you dies," said Laura Davis, 60, who began
working at the Hanover Ames
16 years ago ...

Five of the Ames department stores that will be shut are in Southeastern
Massachusetts, which will mean a loss of 386 jobs. An official said an
additional 350 jobs will be lost at a distribution center in Mansfield.

The Times Union (Albany, NY), Aug 15, 2002 pg. A1

Ames hanging up closed sign; Albany 751 in region to lose jobs as discount
retailer shuts its 327 stores, defeated by giants Wal-Mart, Target, by
Kevin Harlim

The decision by Ames Department Stores Inc. to shutter its stores
nationwide will cost more than 750 jobs in the Capital Region and leave
some communities without their main source of daily sundries.

... The local stores employ 334 full-time and 417 part-time workers,
according to the company.... "I've already had people say that you can't
even buy a pair of white socks here anymore. Where are you going to go?"
asked Jim Post, mayor of the village of Palantine Bridge, Montgomery
County, at the news... Ames is the only large general merchandise
retailer in the western part of rural Montgomery County, he said.

Central Maine Morning Sentinel (Waterville, ME), Feb 20, 2002, pg A1
Wal-Mart expansion forces Farmington grocery to close, by Betty Jespersen

...Graves' Supermarket... on Wilton Road, is closing at the end of the
week, according to co-owner Robert Graves... Graves said his company
prides itself on a generous employee- benefits package that includes a
company-matched retirement fund, health insurance and up to five weeks of
paid vacation.

...Graves said ... 'Wal-Mart has no mercy on small business.... The
experience in Presque Isle 'opened our eyes to what can happen and to what
Wal-Mart does to independent operators like us,' he said. 'We can't afford
to do battle with them.'

He said Wal-Mart does not make a profit on its grocery store...'All they
want to do is bring people in to buy dry goods,' he said. 'That's where
they make their money.'

Keith Morris, a Wal-Mart spokesman, agreed Tuesday that groceries are a
low-margin business but they bring shoppers into stores.

Worcester Telegram & Gazette, (Mass.) Aug 15, 2002

HEADLINE: Ames to close 327 stores, fire 21,500;
 Liquidation of discount chain, by Lisa Eckelbecker

Ames Department Stores Inc reported [that] it will close
all 327 stores and fire 21,500 workers in a liquidation of the bankrupt

...Ames represents the latest discounter to disappear from the region in
recent years, including Bradlees Inc. and Caldor Corp., as larger national
chains such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. have moved in.

... 'These huge outfits are just eating up the smaller stores,'' said
Elaine L. Simone of Worcester after shopping yesterday afternoon at
Lincoln Street store with her mother.

... Ames was at a disadvantage in the marketplace because [it didn't have
the power] to wring discounts out of vendors, said Michael J. Tesler,
president of the Norwell consulting firm Retail Concepts. Other large
chains ''all have significantly more buying power, which in the
marketplace means they're paying less for product,'' Mr. Tesler said. ''So
if they're matching Wal-Mart's price or trying to beat it, they're getting
much less markup than Wal-Mart gets because Wal-Mart pays less for it.''


The New York Times, Nov 15, 2003 Section A; Page 12; Column 1;
HEADLINE: The Wal-Martization of America

[This was probably a column, source lost] The 70,000 grocery workers on
strike in Southern California are the front line in a battle to prevent
middle-class service jobs from turning into poverty-level ones. The
supermarkets say they are forced to lower their labor costs to compete
with Wal-Mart, a nonunion, low-wage employer aggressively moving into the
grocery business. Everyone should be concerned about this fight [they
say]. It is, at bottom, about the ability of retail workers to earn wages
that keep their families out of poverty....

... Wal-Mart's prices are about 14 percent lower than other groceries'
because the company is aggressive about squeezing costs, including labor
costs. Its workers earn a third less than unionized grocery workers, and
pay for much of their [own] health insurance. Wal-Mart uses hardball
tactics to ward off unions. Since 1995, the government has issued at least
60 complaints alleging illegal anti-union activities.

... Wal-Mart may also be driving down costs by using undocumented
immigrants. Last month, federal agents raided Wal-Marts in 21 states.
Wal-Mart is facing a grand jury investigation, and a civil racketeering
class-action filed by cleaners who say they were underpaid when working
for contractors hired by Wal-Mart.. Wal-Mart likes to wrap itself in
American values. It should be reminded that one of those is paying workers
enough to give their families a decent life.

Salt Lake Tribune- Editorial, 1/12/04
Wal-Mart's America

[T]he question is whether Wal-Mart delivers too much of a good thing,
because there are consequences from the company's relentless quest for
lower prices that are not good things.

One such consequence is a wage scale so low that many full-time Wal-Mart
employees cannot support a family. Another is a hastening of the flight of
U.S. manufacturing jobs overseas for products from apparel to toys because
of Wal-Mart's pressure on suppliers to constantly reduce costs. Finally,
the retail giant's success has decimated competitors, making ghost towns
of small-town Main Streets across America.

... By forcing the prices of essential goods like groceries and clothes
ever downward, the company increases the buying power of its customers,
essentially giving them a raise. Unfortunately, the company's own
employees are among those who need that raise the most....
"Wal-Mart is the logical end point and the future of the economy in a
society whose pre-eminent value is getting the best deal," Robert Reich,
the economist and former labor secretary, told The New York Times. But
the pre-eminent value cannot be the only value. Because if it is, the
United States will continue to evolve toward a two-tiered society, one
comprised of those who own capital and those who struggle at several jobs
to make ends meet. The class in the middle will disappear, and that will
not be good either for social stability or Wal-Mart's bottom line.


Well,not the end -- but sufficient unto the day.
Received on Fri Jan 30 16:56:59 2004

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