This should come as no revelation in that America has been despaired by an almost continuous series of attacks from anti-global anarchists hoping to stop the free enterprise juggernaut of the United States of America. Listening to them, one would think the United States has committed a multitude of social crimes, the chief of which is turning a profit.
Therefore, it should also come as no surprise that Wal-Mart, the corporate personification of the American Way, would bear the brunt of a well organized political campaign designed to harm the relationship between the world’s largest retailer and its customers.
The general theme of this campaign is Wal-Mart is harmful to communities by paying poverty wages forcing its workers onto the public rolls; employing illegal aliens, and using its vast economy of scale to push out small competitors by offering everyday low prices. http://www.wakeupwalmart.com/feature/benton/
Although these charges have very little merit, the anti-Wal-Mart political campaign has been surprisingly successful. For example:
Because corporate revenue streams can dwarf the gross product of many countries in which they operate, people are wary of corporate intentions and the consequences thereof. That is why people take notice when profits are equated with exploitation, and charges of wanton abuse take on an air of seriousness.
This does not mean socialist claims should be believed. While anti-globalists come in an almost infinite number of variations, the socialist variety build their arguments from a belief system rooted in fantasy where government is incorruptible and socialist societies always work for the better good.
Anarcho-socialists take this fantasy a step further believing that government ultimately can be done away with and people will just do the right thing of their own volition. In their world, the only thing stopping them is evil capitalism itself.
Anarcho-socialists never see all-powerful states as the perfect vehicle for the very abuses they accuse corporations. In seeking any fault in the West, their arguments often can take a complete departure from reality such as when starving Africans were told not to eat donated western “franken-foods” because they were genetically modified to bring higher yields and naturally resist pests and disease.
The notion that corporations are inherently evil dismisses the lessons of history that show that the rise of the middle class as a political and economic power; the abundance that makes even American poor capable of owning color television sets, automobiles, and air conditioners; and a healthcare system that is unparalleled in the entire world, all came with the rise of corporations.
It is no wonder then that the charges against Wal-Mart are full of radical socialist venom and are designed to misdirect the public from the actual facts. As a political icon, Wal-Mart’s home spun, red state image makes it antithetical to everything for which the radical left stands.
Debunking activist attacks does not imply letting corporations off altogether. Precisely because they are for legal purposes treated as if they were individuals, corporations should also act with humanitarian responsibility and do so without leveraging their works within some kind of marketing program.
The same economic clout that makes possible a corporate global reach should also be employed to help them be responsible corporate citizens within their respective spheres of influence. Wal-Mart has done just that as evidenced by their performance during Hurricane Katrina. http://www.gulfcoastnews.com/GCNspecialWalMart.htm
Wake Up Wal-Mart Campaign
The political campaign against Wal-Mart was originally begun in April 2005 as a combined effort of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) with the hope of forcing Wal-Mart to acquiesce to unionization. The “Wal-Mart Watch” group belongs to SEIU and “Wake Up Wal-Mart” belongs to UFCW. Their arguments come straight out of the anarcho-socialist playbook.
The UFCW admitted to GCN that they currently have no prospect of organizing any Wal-Mart store within the continental Unites States. Furthermore, the UFCW Canadian affiliate did not respond to GCN’s emails, something that troubled the union’s K Street, Washington D.C. headquarters.
This may be because the Canadian UFCW claims to have organized more than one store. Wal-Mart has advised GCN that what they organized was not general merchandise retail stores but several attached but organizationally separate automotive service centers.
Wal-Mart has advised GCN that the unions no longer appear to be actively trying to organize any store within the United States. The ad campaign has continued, however, under the guise that they are only trying to make Wal-Mart a better company.
However, the UCFW has told GCN that the workers they represent are principally employed by Federated Department Stores, a direct Wal-Mart competitor.
This admission then raises the question: Is the UFCW really trying to “help” Wal-Mart or are they actually attempting to damage Wal-Mart’s reputation just as it is continuing to expand into urban markets? http://www.ufcw.org/press_room/index.cfm?pressReleaseID=172
Deconstructing UFCW’s 6 Demands
Because unions cannot negotiate contract demands until after workers have been organized into a local, neither GCN nor Wal-Mart can state exactly what it is the unions are after. However, the UFCW has posted on a website 6 demands for Wal-Mart. The language seeks to create an aura of crisis, not just for Wal-Mart’s employees, but America as a whole. http://www.wakeupwalmart.com/feature/benton/
Demand One: Pay a Living Wage
The matter of pay is perhaps the most difficult demand to rebut of all. Who would want to appear callous toward the supposed suffering of families whose primary bread winner cannot provide the most basic necessities?
In their arguments, UFCW uses factoids to support their suggestions that working for Wal-Mart virtually guarantees poverty. For example, Wal-Mart’s average wage is cited as having only been $8.23 in 2001, below the poverty line for a family of four. http://www.ufcw.org/press_room/index.cfm?pressReleaseID=172
Sounds pitiful, doesn’t it? What the UFCW allows you to forget is that this is not 2001, but 2006. While $8.23 may technically qualify as a “fact,” Wal-Mart’s current national average is actually $10.39 per hour and increasing. Average, of course, means some workers earn more, and some earn less. Wal-Mart employees can also qualify for annual performance bonuses.
Conversely, the current Federal minimum wage is $5.15 per hour.
In their campaigning, the UFCW exploits those individuals whose personal circumstances are such that Wal-Mart can be made to look insensitive to human needs. Often, the head of a family is depicted as a victim of corporate avarice instead of being held responsible for creating a family when they have insufficient skills or other resources to care for them.
In the socialist mindset, the consequences of individual actions are always transferred to someone else; in this instance it is the employer.
Considering that about half of marriages end in divorce, Wal-Mart, like any other employer, will have single moms and dads placed in the situation of having to raise kids on a retail wage. However, wages, like any other economic factor, is based on market forces and to arbitrarily say pay should to be based on family size is insane. It didn’t work in the old Soviet Union, it didn’t work in Communist China, and it won’t work here. One of nature’s immutable laws is that of supply and demand.
Another factor the UFCW does not discuss is the diversity of Wal-Mart’s work force, something quite evident to any observer just entering any Wal-Mart store. This diversity is the result of students, homemakers, and retired people of all creeds and races seeking employment to fit their individual situations.
Wal-Mart simply employs a lot of part-time workers as well as workers whose employment needs change with their changing personal situation.
Older people cannot afford to earn too much or they can lose their retirement benefits. Students need flexible hours so they can attend classes and study. Homemakers need day or evening hours so that they can be there both when their kids head off to school and when they return.
As part-time workers, particularly those whose employment is temporary, they depress the average hourly wage downward.
Evidenced by how the opening of a new Super Center can draw thousands of applicants, Wal-Mart must indeed be offering a very competitive pay and benefit package. For example, when a new store was opened in Norwich, New York, more than 2,500 local residents applied for the 300 newly available jobs. http://www.walmartfacts.com/articles/3057.aspx
Demand Two: Provide Affordable Healthcare
The UFCW demands that Wal-Mart do something that no other company or government has been able to do and that is providing “affordable” healthcare. This open-ended demand actually anticipates no health plan can ever be deemed acceptable. After all, just what is the definition of “affordable” and who in America actually has one?
Despite the union’s on-going demand, about 1 year ago, Wal-Mart rolled out a healthcare Value Plan designed with the entry-level worker in mind. According to Wal-Mart, this plan can provide the most basic health care at a price on average ranging from $23 for an individual, $37 for a single parent and $65 for a family.
The new Value Plan is reported to be 40% to 60% less than Wal-Mart’s previous plans. Under the old system, 18 different health care plans were available. The “unaffordable” one cost the individual employee only $37 per month.
The Value plan has a $1,000 deductible but allows for three doctor visits and three generic prescriptions before the deductible begins.
Despite the Value Plan, the UCFW continues to promote the notion that Wal-Mart’s health plan only “…covers 43% of their employees.”
When GCN approached numerous workers at two Richmond, Virginia Wal-Mart Super Centers, none of those asked said they had Wal-Mart health insurance. When asked why, the usual answers were, “I’m already covered by my husband’s plan;” “my parents cover me;” and “I’m retired and have a plan through my old company.”
The UFCW continues to claim that employees are not eligible for health care until after one year of employment. Wal-Mart refutes that telling GCN that their health plan is available within 180 days.
Demand Three: End Discrimination
The UFCW makes this demand as if it were an indictment saying: “Ensure equal opportunity and equal pay for women and people of color in your workforce at all levels through a stringent and independent monitoring process.” (Emphasis added.)
This is the kind of charge former Oklahoma congressman J.C, Watts often attributed to “race hustlers.” As such, it is the most repugnant demand of the 6.
It has an air of the old Soviet Union in how the command structure of the Red Army was watched by a cadre of “political officers” whose primary mission was to maintain loyalty to the state and to disseminate propaganda. Political officers could also override commander’s orders and even remove them if it were thought necessary.
While it would be naïve to think that sexism and racism have no place in modern America, it would also be naïve to think “independent monitors” wouldn’t pressure corporate management into making decisions based quotas instead of merit. Notice that the demand didn’t state equal opportunity and pay for all. Clearly, as stated, UFCW’s preference is for women and minorities.
What would be appropriate is to demand exactly what Wal-Mart’s corporate policy already demands: Equal opportunity for all. If local management violates that policy then there are a number of remedies available to aggrieved employees including litigation.
Should one deny that UFCW desires quotas, consider how the union strives to make a case for systemic discrimination by citing how just 6 women in California sued Wal-Mart over pay and promotion issues. That is 6 women out of 1.3 million employees.
http://www.wakeupwalmart.com/facts (Look well down the page.)
Note that succumbing to politically correct demands does not bring tranquility. Ford Motor Company tried favoring minorities only to have older white males sue and win for reverse discrimination. Subsequently, it has had to change its buy-out stance in this latest go-around of personnel reductions. Now virtually everyone is being offered a “package.” Management can no longer choose to keep the most vital workers. This comes as the company is now fighting for its survival.
Demand Four: Zero Tolerance on Child Labor
If Demand Three was repugnant, this one is idiotic. The UFCW is actually equating employment of young people with child abuse. Furthermore, they want still another independent monitoring process.
Granted, child labor in foreign countries can be much different from what we would expect in the United States. It is also an understatement to say that this would be true of childhood itself. In some foreign countries, if work is harsh, work also means not starving.
Thus, a global prohibition on child labor could mean thousands of children, and possibly even their parents if they have them, will either not have enough to eat, or will have to find employment in other, perhaps more unsavory, occupations- provided they can find work at all.
In my view, one of the problems with modern American youth is that too many have been insulated from work and so never develop the work ethic necessary to see them through to the attainment of a useful education.
These days, too many young people have no vision of a future that should hold many wonderful possibilities for them. They have no expectation for success. All of the codling they have gotten has left them despondent about their future prospects. They are soft, lazy and deep down inside they know it.
Demand Five: Buy American
As good as this sounds it is currently not a possibility. That is because America has dropped the tariffs that heretofore have protected our domestic industry.
While economists have often lauded our transition to a service economy, or have opined that consumers are saving money, conservatives such as me have been pooh-poohed for our isolationist stance. Well, the chickens have come home to roost.
Economists have long known that the buying habits of the public are such that quality being the same or at least adequate, they will invariably purchase the lower cost item regardless of manufacturing origin.
A good case in point is how Harley-Davidson was saved from extinction by tariffs imposed by the Federal Government back in 1983. While the tariffs drastically raised prices for all motorcycles made overseas, it also made it possible for Harley to become competitive in the U.S. market thus saving the last domestic bike manufacture from extinction. http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa032.html
Without a viable U.S. policy that will protect our industry, Wal-Mart cannot be expected to buy American when other retailers won’t. Frankly, setting U.S. trade policy is not under the prevue of even the world’s largest retailer.
UFCW, take your case to the Unites States Congress and stop beating up Wal-Mart over something it has no control.
Demand Six: Respect Communities
Regardless of the distorted picture the UFCW might want to paint, Wal-Mart has shown profound respect for the communities it serves as demonstrated by its relief efforts in the days immediately following Katrina.
Having said that, there is no problem with Wal-Mart working with “local communities to effectively address Wal-Mart’s negative impact on issues like traffic, sprawl, the environment, and local businesses.” As the 800 pound gorilla of the retail world, one should expect Wal-Mart to care for the community it serves.
Unwittingly, however, UFCW concerns about “traffic” and “sprawl” are tacit admissions that a Wal-Mart Super Center brings to the community a high level of commerce that did not exist prior t their arrival.
Otherwise, I also have no problem with Wal-Mart attending to concerns involving the environment or its impact on local business. That the UFCW has concern for the latter, frankly, is quite curious and warrants considerable scrutiny.
Since when did a big-time union concern itself with the matters of small, privately owned businesses? Would the UFCW have you believe that the small “mom and pops” provide better benefits, better chances for promotion, better pay, or even the possibility for ownership? Were they union friendly?
Of course not; the argument for protecting local business is, in my opinion, a ruse. Mom and pops did none of these things. In fact, the arrival of Wal-Mart in many rural towns actually relieved the common worker from oppression from the local power elite. This was certainly so in Grenada, Mississippi.
Wal-Mart brought human resource policies that prevented workers from being arbitrarily fired or perpetually paid real poverty wages. Wal-Mart differs from the mom & pops in that with Wal-Mart, there can be a realistic anticipation that advancement will happen and a certainty of ownership via the purchase of Wal-Mart common stock.
A study by the Mississippi State University found that the presence of a Wal-Mart brought about a net gain in local employment even though it negatively impacted those businesses in which it did compete.
Other business that offered products complimentary to Wal-Mart actually showed a net gain. The study went on to suggest how negatively impacted businesses could differentiate themselves and so profit from the increased customer traffic afforded by Wal-Mart.
The UFCW International operations are financed by receipts from a portion of the local chapter’s union dues, which is about $11 per capita per month. The UFCW has a membership of about 1.4 million. Doing the math, that computes to about $184.8 million per year.
Wal-Mart has 1.8 million employees world-wide with about 1.3 million working within the United States. If just 200,000 Wal-Mart employees, or about 670 Super Centers out of a national total of 2,121 could be organized, that would increase revenue to the international by about $26.4 million per year; a 14% increase.
About the Author.....
Perry Hicks is the senior writer for GCN. He is a former Mississippi Coast resident and was a correspondent for the old Gulfport Star Journal. He has appeared on Fox News Channel. Perry has also hosted his own radio talk show on the auto industry with a mix of politics. Perry is a former college professor and a frequent contributor to GCN writing on stories of national importance with local interests. His articles can be found in the GCN Archive.
Contact the Author: firstname.lastname@example.org