Saturday, April 24, 2004

WM Opposition Roundup 

Household Incomes in Westchester County, NY are some of the highest ever recorded in human history, which is why the city council believes another discount store is not needed. Here's the skinny: "We have one shot to get it right," [Councilman] Stowe said. "If we get the wrong store in there, then the entire downtown folds."

The Palm Springs, CA City Council is fine with the development of a new WM, but neighboring Cathedral City is worried about traffic. A WM spokesman claims "The Cathedral City [WM] is closing and they’re not happy about it." See also the Desert Sun's multipart special report that, "takes a look at what that will mean to Coachella Valley consumers, and retail and grocery competitors."

WTNH reports on a union/resident demonstration against WM in Hartford, Connecticut. It includes useful information, and an asshat response by an activist, who clearly doesn't know the meaning of "hourly":
"Please make sure that you abide by the living wage that was established in 1999," Johnson said. "Living wage without benefits is $11.55 an hour, and with benefits it's $9.54."

A spokesperson from Wal-Mart tells News Channel 8 the average wage for hourly associates in Connecticut is $10.92 an hour.

"Maybe they're factoring the CEO into that average," says Jon Green, Director of Connecticut Working Families, a coalition that pushes for economic justice.

Green says Wal-Mart doesn't help workers care for themselves or their families. "One of Wal-Mart worker who lives in the neighborhood told us she's been at Wal-Mart for three years as an associate, and her wages are now about $8.60 and hour."

He says that employee's children are covered by the state supported HUSKY health insurance. She could not afford the company coverage. According to the Wal-Mart spokesperson, their individual insurance is $15.25 every pay period. Family coverage is $66.25 per period.
What was the woman earning before she signed up to work for Wal-Mart? How were her children insured? How is she--or the taxpayers--worse off?

The Omaha World-Herald was surpised to find 76% of local businesses in Papillion supporting the entry of a WM supercenter:
Mallory said he was not convinced by opponents of the project who attacked the Wal-Mart corporation for a list of alleged sins, including union busting, paying subsistence wages and breaking labor laws.

"There were times during that meeting that I was starting to believe that Wal-Mart was responsible for the entire decline of Western civilization," Mallory said. "And I don't think that's the case."

Mallory said he respects the opinion of neighbors near the site, who say the 24-hour supercenter would lower their property values, bring trash and traffic to quiet neighborhoods, and endanger schoolchildren crossing streets.

But he said that 72nd Street is a major commercial corridor through the metro area and that its southern end is destined for commercial development.

In other news, a WM manager is spending a weekend on the roof as a fundraising event for Children's Miracle Network. They're hoping to raise $5000 by selling water balloons, which are to be used to try to hit the manager.

Friday, April 23, 2004

WM's Wages 

In October of 2003, BusinessWeek published Is Wal-Mart too Powerful?, which contains an enormous amount of useful information. It also follows the debate over the wages paid to WM workers:
America's largest private employer, is widely blamed for the sorry state of retail wages in America. On average, Wal-Mart sales clerks -- "associates" in company parlance -- pulled in $8.23 an hour, or $13,861 a year, in 2001, according to documents filed in a lawsuit pending against the company. At the time, the federal poverty line for a family of three was $14,630. Wal-Mart insists that it pays competitively, citing a privately commissioned survey that found that it "meets or exceeds" the total remuneration paid by rival retailers in 50 U.S. markets.
I am not going to debate here whether wages are too high or too low. Why should I? How can I? There is no room for debate, because there is no clear data. Which claim is true--that its wages are poverty level, or that they are competitive--or are both true?

We never want to look at just wages; we want to look at total compensation--wages+benefits+vacation etc. One benefit usually not included in the calculation of WM compensation is the 10% discount employees get by shopping at WM. How does that affect their total compensation compared to a union worker at a grocery store?

Wal-Mart Takes on Fringe Banking? 

The Press Enterprise reports (registration required) that:
Although there has been no announcement nor advertising, the megaretailer has begun cashing paychecks of up to $1,000 at many of its California stores for a $3 fee - far below what most corner check-cashing outlets charge.
It later continues:
Eagles, which is just a couple of blocks from Wal-Mart, charges 2 percent for paychecks up to $1,000 - that's $4 for a $200 check or $20 for a $1,000 check.
Check cashing outlets rely on the uneducated or the undisciplined for their revenue. Pretty deplorable. It's high time a big company like Wal-Mart put this industry into its crosshairs.

Incredibly, most of the article focuses on how the competition will hurt the check-cashing outlets. A single guarded quote from a consumer group rep suggests that Wal-Mart's move "may" be good for consumers.

WM Suppliers of the Year 

The buzz-generating Fast Company article that puts bitter ex-executives and failed WM suppliers in the spotlight can only be countered with far more numerous stories of success.

WM has awarded suppliers of the year honors to several companies--Tracfone in electronics and Applica in small appliances are among others that have not yet been released.

Some Union Imagery 

We know that unions want to take down WM badly, but that WM employees consistently vote against becoming unionized. I think its because most WM employees don't hate WM, while unions do, as evidenced by their propaganda:

If you owned, managed, or worked in WM, would you want to deal with a union that thinks your organization is a monster?

How Many WalMart Employees have Health Insurance? 

More than 90% of WM employees have health insurance. 10% do not.

That's 1,260,000 WM employees with insurance, 140,000 without.

(From page 23 of this study). Note that rougly half of these insured are insured outside the company plan--by themselves, their spouses, other jobs, universities, etc. "

Does anybody have comparable data for other large retail store chains?

Guest Post: Sterling Wright 

Sterling Wright, an employee of WM, ardently defends his company from charges of wrongdoing:

Wal-Mart is not in the practise of abusing labour laws, hiring illegals, or [offering a] low rate of pay and benefits. All employees of Wal-Mart are treated fairly. Any alleged abuses against Wal-Mart in the past were not a corporate decision. Rather, any violations made were errors on the part of individual associates. Moreover, no case has ever been brought against Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is relentless, not ruthless.

American jobs are not being lost to foreign sweatshops. Many American jobs have been outsourced because of poor American productivity, complex laws that make no practical business sense, and because of intense competition.

It is important that American's recoganise that they vote with their pocket book. The only way to keep any consumer loyal is by offering the highest quality goods and services at the lowest possible price.

Wal-Mart does monitor any potential labour abuses by it suppliers. Thanks to jobs supplied directly and indirectly by Wal-Mart, China is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Its middle class has grown by more than 3% in the past year. The value of the currency is stabilising and improving.

Yes, Wal-Mart exports 20% of all Chinese goods. And yes, the majority of these goods are consumed by working Americans. We are all part of a global economy.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

The next target of Wal-Mart's insatiable greed? Your neighborhood Microsoft. 

If Microsoft's dominance in the operating system business declines, Wal-Mart may play an important role:

Sun says it has finalized its agreement with Microtel Computer Systems to sell machines loaded with Sun's Java Latest News about Java Desktop System on Walmart.com. And Sun is confident that its JDS version 2.0 will be another nibble toward its goal of taking a big bite out of Microsoft'sRelevant Products/Services from Microsoft Windows dominance.

Blimpie Xpress 

The Ocala Star-Banner (!) celebrates the opening of the first two Blimpie stores within WalMart:
The No. 3 sub chain behind segment leaders Subway and Quizno's returned to Marion County this week in an alliance with the No. 1 discount retailer that should put the eatery's new Xpress concept in about 150 Wal-Marts around the United States in the next two years....

Mears said Blimpie developed the new Xpress concept just for its Wal-Mart outlets. Because they'll be open more hours than the typical sub shop - 7 a.m.-11 p.m., seven days - these stores will serve breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner.

"We have popcorn and freezies, something we don't normally sell," Mears said. "But they're items Wal-Mart's customers want. Same thing with pasta. We don't normally sell pasta dishes but we do here."

The Xpress fare also offers grilled panini subs, wraps and special low-carbohydrate selections.
One man was disappointed they don't sell french fries. As the #1 grocer, and in-store purveyors of fast-food, could WM somehow be found liable for American obesity? UPDATE: If the kids get to fat by eating at Blimpies, WM and others will sell them clothes that fit.

Setting Smiley Aflame 

Some art from Malathar:

WM fires man over "Attire" 

According to the San Antonio Express-News (registration required), WM fired a man because he persisted in an unusual manner of dress:
Daniel A. Lorenz regularly wore a collared shirt to work, but it clearly wasn't the type expected in the Wal-Mart Supercenter's dress code.

He says he was fired last week upon reporting for duty in his priest's shirt with Roman collar, an Arab headdress and six crosses.

Supervisors had warned Lorenz that his job was at risk over his appearance, which they said violated dress codes and upset customers and fellow workers, particularly Catholics.

Some Thoughts on WM and Health Insurance 

It is well known that no matter how much you pay some people, they refuse to buy health insurance (even when they can amply afford it). Simply, these people value health insurance less than other things. Studies have shown that massive increases in income or subsidies would be required before many of the uninsured would consider buying health insurance voluntarily (references available upon email request).

Now, we know that some of these people work at WM. Even if WM were to double wages, many of those who do not have health insurance on their own or with the company subsidy would still not buy it.

As a result many people want to implement a national rationing and payment system, compulsory for all US residents. Clearly, this would make some people better off and others worse off. Others believe that WM has a moral (to be made legal) obligation to pay directly for all of the healthcare costs of its workers (but not their housing, food, clothing, or entertainment)-i.e. to tell workers that a certain part of their incomes must be spent on health insurance or health care.

Let's say that WM wants to sustain both its high rate of profit and low prices. Then my question: is does WM have an obligation to reduce the direct wages paid to WM workers without insurance, and give them health insurance as company scrip? If we implement a national healthcare system, how would it be different from this scenario?

HIV? Wal-Mart's fault.  

This blogger berates Wal-Mart because they won't pay for an employee's HIV treatment:

So imagine my surprise when someone came into my office today who has a full-time job. She works 40 hours a week at Wal-Mart. Like many of their employees, she can't afford their health insurance plan. Even if she could, they wouldn't cover her HIV care because it's a pre-existing condition. It isn't even about paying for the drugs, which are expensive - she qualifies for the state AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which picks up all of her prescriptions for her. Wal-Mart won't pay for office visits to an HIV specialist, and they won't pay for the blood tests she needs to monitor her condition.
Now that's a sad story, of course, and the woman should be given credit for working rather than relying entirely upon the government dole.

But with the resentment toward Wal-Mart that follows from our author, you'd think Wal-Mart had given this woman AIDS. (They didn't.)

So why does Wal-Mart owe her payment for her treatments, in addition to her regular wages? And if I'm her co-worker, and I don't have HIV, why should she be paid more than me?

With this item, I really have to wonder if there is any ill in the world for which some people don't want to hold Wal-Mart responsible.

(Link via a Washington Monthly blog post, which also links to this very site.)

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Big in Japan 

The first Wal-Mart Supercenter (aka Seiyu) has opened in Japan, and the locals love it:

Compared to old-style Japanese stores with a mishmash of merchandise crowding the shelves, the towering aisles here are filled with rows and rows of similar products - soda, sneakers, frying pans.

The American look is new to most Japanese. Bold signs that read "shoes" or "toys" hang from above to direct shoppers to the right aisles, and a moving walkway takes shoppers with their giant carts to a rooftop parking lot. A massive single-floor store like the Supercenter is so unusual that benches had to be placed in some spots to accommodate Japanese who complained they needed a rest.

Shoppers like Eri Hiraiwa can't get enough.

"It's great; the prices are affordable," the cosmetics company employee said, studying a knit top that sells for 997 yen, the equivalent of $9.24. "This would cost 2,000 yen ($20) in other stores, and I love it that it's cheaper than 1,000 yen ($10)."

The opening here had none of the public rancor that recently marked Wal-Mart's plans to expand into Chicago and Los Angeles... if nearby residents and business owners are unhappy, it's not evident.
That all sounds good, but what I want to know is, how come they get moving walkways, and can park on the roof? The Japanese get all the fun stuff.

A "progressive" analysis of Wal-Mart 

From The Capital Times, the "progressive" newspaper of Madison, Wisconsin:

Wal-Mart does have low prices. When we shop there, we think we're saving money - $3 on a lock here, $15 on a bike there. But low prices don't mean low costs. It's costing us jobs to shop at Wal-Mart.

Even if you don't work for a Wal-Mart supplier, you're affected by suppliers who send jobs abroad. When your customers lose their jobs to cheap foreign labor, they can't buy goods or services from you. Even if you're a government employee, that affects you. Unemployed customers won't be paying taxes that support your job.
So I learned two things from this article, which, incidentally, appeared in the "Business" section of this paper, and not on the op-ed page:

1. After people buy their cheap stuff at Wal-Mart, they won't think of anything else they might want, and no one else will think of anything else to sell to them, so there will just be no more jobs, ever, except for the few who are lucky enough to be employed at Wal-Mart.

2. American jobs, and therefore American people, are more important than foreign jobs and foreign people.

What progressive thinking!

WM in Esquire 

At Catallarchy, Micha Gertner points to an subscription-only article in Esquire by Ken Kurson:
EVERYBODY HATES WAL-MART. Recently, three business magazines ran "Wal-Mart is bad" stories. Union employees at three California supermarket chains launched strikes because of the effect Wal-Mart might have when it adds groceries to its West Coast repertoire. Stock analysts can't imagine how WMT could continue to grow—a third of them rate it a "hold" (analyst slang for "turd")—and rush to diss the company. And even the government is mad: The Feds recently raided Wal-Mart, looking for illegals. (Shockingly, they discovered a few mixed in among the 1.2 million employees.) How can a store visited by 138 million people each week be so damn . . . unpopular?

The answer, of course, is that it's not. In fact, it's wildly popular...
Micha has more of the article than the web site, and he adds that, "If one were looking for a shining example of a Randian protagonist, Wal-Mart is it. Wal-Mart is hated for no other reason than being so damn successful."

Blog about WM--or Send in a Post 

If you want to blog about WM in a serious way, or have a one-time post you want to share, email kbrancat-at-gmu.edu. Pro-WM, anti-WM and a-WM writers are welcome; let's just keep the cant and hyperbole to a minimum.

Guest Post: Alex Danchanko 

Alex Danchanko, a reader concerned that ALP is a little too pro-WM, sends in a post:

The store itself cannot find its place regarding customer service. You return something, it appears that at the employee's discretion, the item is either reshelved (though it's defective) or stocked in a back room.

Then there's the popular statement that they sell guns but regulate their media. This is invalid as it stands; Certain Republicans do this to the U.S. all the time. However, this is contradictory -- the very reason I find myself neither Republican nor pro-WM. Personal liberty = the right to bear arms + freedom of speech, nothing less.

Finally, having a stranglehold on the department store industry is killing local businesses and severely limiting (if not eliminating) further market entry. Since the introduction of WM into my community, the number of low-priced department stores has been cut in half, and the small businesses in the downtown area are dropping like flies. As WM prospers, my community is sinking deeper into a state of economic depression.

Guest Post: Russell Nelson 

The Angry Economist sends in an interesting short essay on WM and poor-selling goods:

The Trouble with Wal-Mart

The biggest trouble with Wal*Mart is that they don't stock things that don't sell well. While that may sound stupid to anybody who's ever been a buyer for a retail store, it makes sense to a customer. Try buying a Grade 8 bolt. The Wal*Mart hardware department simply does not stock them, while a real hardware store will. A Grade 8 bolt is one with special markings on its head which indicate that it is stronger than a Grade 5, which is stronger than Grade 2. If you need a Grade 8 bolt, neither a Grade 5 nor Grade 2 will suffice. And yet.... how often is a store going to need to sell a Grade 8 bolt? Not very.

A local hardware store will stock all three grades of bolts even though it costs a fair bit of money and floor space. In return, people come into the store and buy those items which move. The store makes more money on those items, loses less money on the Grade 8 bolts, and makes a profit. Wal*Mart comes into town, and only stocks the items that make money. The hardware store cannot compete on those terms since it needs those items to make its profit, and so it closes, and the Grade 8 bolts go back to the manufacturer.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

"San Francisco should be big-box-free." 

San Francisco wants to use the permit system to give the city government control over the opening of all stores greater than 50,000 square feet, and to forbid the opening (any place except downtown) of any store larger than 120,000 square feet that sells nontaxable items (like groceries).

Everyone knows this is aimed at WM, even though it is not named in the bill.

The proposed bill will contain a real shift in control towards the Board of Supervisors and away from entering businesses, because it will give status quo interests--anybody who might be harmed by competition--greater weight than those who might benefit. The legislation will:
Require the Planning Commission to consider additional criteria when deciding whether to permit stores larger than 50,000 square feet, including market demand, effect on similar retail uses, shift in traffic patterns and the impact of the employees on city services.
The Planning Commission is not required to assess the costs and benefits, but to assess the costs only. Note that no applications for permits that large have been requested, although "Projects -- such as the Home Depot -- that are now in the planning pipeline are exempt from the proposed law."

Wizbang on WM 

Excellent take on the WM experience from Kevin Aylward:
My beef with Wal-Mart is that the stores I’ve been to in the Washington D.C. area look, and in some cases smell, awful. Suburbia has its advantages, and one of them is an abundance of choice. The contrast between a visit to Wal-Mart and a visit to Target is vivid. Target, even during the busy holiday season, is visually appealing and clean. Wal-Mart, on the other hand, has the feel of a concession line at a tractor pull.
Read the whole thing. My experience with WM in DC is similar.

The Economist on Wal-Mart 

The Economist has a special report on Wal-Mart in this week's issue. (I guess it's the cover story, though I don't get the print edition. For those with a subscription, it's also the subject of the lead editorial.)

It's a typical Economist story: nothing new, but an informative introductory article for those who don't know much about the company and its history, and entertaining even if you do. Many Americans also may not know much about Wal-Mart's foreign expansion:
…[In Germany,] Wal-Mart's entry was “nothing short of a fiasco”…expatriate managers suffered from a massive clash of cultures, which was not helped by their refusal to learn to speak German. The company has come to be seen as an unattractive one to work for…In part this is because of relatively low pay and an ultra-frugal policy on managers' business expenses.

This contrasts with Wal-Mart's much smoother expansion into Britain…

Overall the article views Wal-Mart positively, but also discusses the (political and market) forces that are acting against it.

Finding a WM Job 

Does anybody else see advertisement for jobs at WM and Sam's Club in the GoogleAds above? Apparently Snag a Job is an online jobs site specifically for hourly employment--part-time and full-time. However, I have no idea why WM would bother with this service. Just to check, I found that there are no WM jobs in my area, and I doubt that WM lists with them at all--since it usually attracts thousands of people for hundreds of jobs, as it did recently in Glendale, Arizona.

If you've ever worked at WM, could you leave a short comment on how you found the job?

UPDATE: If you want to find information about a job at WM--in the stores, warehouses, supply-chain, or in corporate--the best place to go is the official site. The best place find an hourly position at WM is to just go to the store or warehouse.

Jesse Jackson vs. WM 

The Chicago Tribune reports (rr) that Jesse Jackson is once again shouting sometimes bizarre, sometimes incoherent anti-WM slogans in his never-ending effort for publicity:
"It's Kool-Aid and cyanide," Jackson said Monday of the world's largest retailer. "The Kool-Aid is the cheap prices. The cyanide is the cheap wages. The cyanide is the cheap health benefits..."

"The Wal-Martization of the country is like a Trojan horse," Jackson said. "It's exciting on the outside, but on the inside is a machinery that destroys competition."
However, other--local--representatives of Chicago's black community see things differently:
"We are here to serve the people of this area, and they want Wal-Mart," said Ald. Emma Mitts, who supports building a Wal-Mart store in her 37th Ward on the West Side.

The two Wal-Mart proposals for Chicago would place new stores at old industrial sites....

Mayor Richard Daley reiterated his backing for the Wal-Mart proposals Monday.

The mayor noted that Target and other non-union retailers do business in Chicago.

"We have Wal-Marts all over the suburban area," Daley said. "That's something I can't understand. If they are all over the suburban area, why is someone objecting when they build one in the city?"

Monday, April 19, 2004

Aldi (Trader Joe's) 

Jack Ewing writes in BusinessWeek that Aldi is coming to expanding further in the US. You might say, who? And I'd answer, you'll find out:
Aldi follows a simple but devastating strategy. A typical Aldi has only about 700 products, compared with more than 20,000 at a traditional grocer such as Royal Ahold's (AHO ) Albert Heijn and as many as 150,000 at a Wal-Mart Supercenter... Almost everything on display is an Aldi-exclusive label such as Frisco Dent toothpaste (61 cents for a family-size tube) or Rio D'Oro orange juice (74 cents a liter) in Europe. The Aldi lineup even seems to be winning over U.S. shoppers. "They're not the brands I'm used to, but they're good. Nestlé has nothing on this," says retired schoolteacher Silvia Randall, holding up a package of LaMissa hot cocoa mix at an Aldi in Smyrna, Ga.

Because it sells so few products, Aldi can exert strong control over quality and price. The limited selection simplifies shipping and handling. A survey by consultants McKinsey & Co. found shoppers perceived little difference in quality, assortment, or service at Aldi, vs. traditional retailers, but they rated Aldi better on price. "We have a lot of respect for Aldi quality," says Wolfgang Gutberlet, CEO of Fulda, Germany-based tegut, which operates about 300 food stores in western Germany.
Aldi is owned by a trust controlled by the same group that owns Trader Joe's. Note that TJs history says nothing about this (the company acts like Joe still owns and operates the stores himself), but Yahoo is clear that TJs is owned by one of the most terrifying cost-cutters around:
Started by Joe Coulombe as a Los Angeles convenience store chain in 1958, the company was bought in 1979 by German billionaires Karl and Theo Albrecht, who also own the ALDI food chain.
So Aldi is already here! Given that TJ's owned by a corporate behemoth, why don't we see enormous resistance to Trader Joe's when they open up?

That's it--no more posts till tomorrow!

No WM in Wallkill 

WM has announced that it will not build a distribution center in Wallkill, NY. The company insists that it's an efficiency issue:
"Wal-Mart has increased the efficiency of our existing distribution center network. This allows us to effectively service our stores without the expense of this distribution center. With this in mind, we have re-evaluated our plans for a regional distribution center in Wallkill," said Rollin Ford, Executive Vice President of Logistics and Supply Chain. "We owe it to our customers and shareholders, many of whom are Wal-Mart associates, to continue to operate our business at the lowest expense levels possible."...

We remain committed to the state of New York and to expanding our presence in this market."
Wallkill is important because, as Al Norman noted, WM would have received tremendous a subsidy from local and state governments:
Both corporations are depending on taxpayer's welfare in The Empire Zone to put up their stores, in essence making some of their competitors pay for property, sales and payroll tax subsidies to put them out of business. Empire Zone status means a businesses can "operate on an almost 'tax-free' basis for up to 10 years."
The Governor of NY, George Pataki was excited about the facility, even as he admitted the subsidy:
Governor George E. Pataki today announced that Wal-Mart will invest $48.5 million and create 1,000 new jobs in New York State, as the nation's leading retailer moves forward with plans to construct a 1.2 million square foot distribution facility in Orange County. The construction of the facility is also expected to support 600 jobs in the construction and trade industries...

In consideration of its commitment to the New York State economy, Wal-Mart is eligible to apply for an $850,000 training grant and a $200,000 capital grant from Empire State Development. The retailer is also eligible for a $600,000 grant and a $400,000 ten-year interest free loan from the Department of Transportation's Industrial Access Program.
Personally, I am excited that WM did not take up New York State's offer, but I'm inclined to believe that WM took even more corporate pork from another region. That said, if residents of an area can vote for a city council (or vote directly) to exclude WM from their community, as the voting citizens of Inglewood did, how is it any less democratic for voters who want a WM to elect politicians to subsidize WM's entry?

Around the Blogosphere 

Standard Deviance notes the WM and KMart will be selling DVD players that edit offensive content.

Chez Marche Cafe is supporting a grass roots effort to counter WM in Waupaca, Wisconsin:
Saturday night we've got the Tom and Jenny McComb Quartet for the Out of the Box (OOB) fundraiser. OOB is working hard to protect our community from rampant growth and corporate exploitation, by asking for a two-year moratorium on Big Box development (that means WalMart), until we finish our Smart Growth planning process. They're (we're, I'm a member), asking for a reasonable planning period so that we can decide as a community whether or not, and under what circumstances, a big development can be good for the community. WalMart, however, doesn't play nice and so the group needs funds to hire a lawyer, if for no other reason than just to make sure all the i's get dotted and t's get crossed. Hence, the fundraiser. There'll be great music, plenty of food, and ice cold beer on tap. So stop on down, have some fun with us and help defend the local economy! I don't want to be a big drag or anything, but it's a vital issue so I hope we'll see you there. Admission is $10, beer is sold separately. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Chez. Donations are welcomed.
Sounds like fun.

Meanwhile, Amy at Without music, life is a journey through a desert starts working at WM tomorrow:
I work tomorrow...that's right..you read right...I have a job....you want to guess where though?.....walmart......BALLLLSSS!!!! BUT if i get another BETTER job offer I will take that for sure!!!
Neil Armstrong at German for Beginners notes the NYTimes story on WM, and thinks WM is the result of economic evolution.

Meanwhile, Larry Thompson drives by WM in Texas:
Really, there is not much of anything until you get to Huntsville. Then, there is a prison and a Walmart. The Walmart is the blue one, by the way. The prison has better landscaping. And a fountain. I wonder why they need a fountain. Is it to torture the prisoners?

Two Quotes 

Researching WM is great fun--the quotes just keep on coming. Here's a story about the growth of WM in LA over the past decade:
With nine stores built and others in the works, Wal-Mart is saturating the eastern part of Los Angeles County.

Economic experts say Wal-Mart is making a big push in the area because city councils are desperate for tax money and want to redevelop seedy areas.

"They are literally carpeting the area with Wal-Marts, ' said Jack Kyser, the chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.
Another about resistance in Denver:
Nothing twists Mary Hendrick's innards quite like a Wal-Mart.

"Wal-Mart, uck, it just does something to you," says Hendrick, a northwest Denver resident.

Guest Post: Tim Hulsey 

Tim Hulsey of My Stupid Dog sends in a post he wrote two months ago. It is reprinted below, with the preamble cut.

Note: If you would like to guest post at ALP, or become a regular blogger, email kbrancat-at-gmu.edu. I stress that there is no litmus test; we welcome both pro and anti WM posts, as long as they are well reasoned:

In Defense of Wal-Mart

Granted, the targets of our local "indymedia" collective are a bit less grandiose, as is appropriate for the left wing in Charlottesville. Our leftists don't have so much to say about world peace; they'd rather rail against growth, roads, parkways, SUVs, industry, etc. But most of all, they're against Wal-Mart. You'd think leftists would approve of a place that enables even the poorest of the working poor to afford the things they need. But our leftists claim that instead of relieving poverty, Wal-Mart causes it. Wal-Mart, you see, does not kowtow to labor unions.

Well, "Ben," a former boyfriend of mine (I'm like the Marines in that I don't have "exes"), has seen firsthand what labor unions do. The department store where he works as a part-time cashier is "closed-shop," which means that if Ben wants to keep ringing the registers, he'd better fork over a good-sized chunk of his salary to the official labor union. He can't exactly spare this cash, but that never stops his union from taking it away. And even though the union is perfectly happy to take money from low-paid, part-time employees like Ben, it refuses to represent Ben's interests to management. He is paid a lower wage than full-time employees, he lacks benefits, and his union reduces his take-home pay even further. Worst of all, his union prevents part-time employees from rising into the ranks of full-time employees (let alone managers). In short, Ben's union makes him worse off than a part-time, non-union employee at Wal-Mart. So from his point of view, unionization is basically a fraud, a coercive scam that robs hard-earned cash from part-time employees and grants extra privileges to the relatively well-paid full-timers.

Gentle readers, I'm sure you must be quite surprised to learn that today's labor unions are frequently corrupt, and that they may prove counterproductive to the interests of low-paid workers. Who would have thought it -- other than the workers themselves, I mean?

So with Ben, his dead-end closed-shop job, and the corrupt labor union in mind, I placed this nostalgic piece praising "big box" stores in the comments section of Cvilleindymedia.org, to enlighten left-wing activists who frequent the site and don't know what Wal-Mart really stands for. I promise, gentle readers, to let you know when or if my post is taken down -- and to share any particularly outrageous comments it may provoke.

A Store for the People

I grew up in a small town in Arkansas, and I remember what the local Wal-Mart did to all our lives in the community.

Before Wal-Mart came, we couldn't buy very much locally, because the goods weren't available. Local stores were five-and-ten cent affairs; their irregular inventory and limited supplies offered us no assurance that we could get the things we wanted at a competitive price. Usually, we'd have to mail-order our purchases through Sears or Montgomery Ward catalogs, and sometimes those orders would take weeks to arrive.

Wal-Mart changed all that. Suddenly, we had access to a large, well-stocked emporium, full of items we could only get through a catalog before. Because Wal-Mart offered bargain prices, my parents found that they could make their meager teachers' salary go much further. Our community's standard of living rapidly improved, not just because Wal-Mart helped us to save money and buy more of the things we wanted, but also because it provided dozens of new jobs for our locality.

Those jobs were low-paying, at least at entry level. But local five-and-tens paid their starting employees even less than Wal-Mart, while making raises and promotions more difficult to come by. Because our town's five-and-ten cent stores were all "family-owned," their management positions were reserved for the owner's kith and kin. Employees who were not of the family always remained on the lowest rungs of the ladder, no matter how long or how well they worked for the owner. In contrast, Wal-Mart used merit rather than nepotism to fill its management positions. So these long-time retail workers quickly abandoned their old, dead-end jobs for upwardly mobile careers at Wal-Mart.

What's more, unlike many local businessmen who practiced discrimination on the QT, Wal-Mart served African-Americans and hired them. Only a short time before, our town had resisted integrating its public schools, but when Wal-Mart integrated our business life, nobody seemed to mind.

Wal-Mart made basic goods less expensive to obtain, brought jobs to our town, placed Black American workers side by side with Whites, and enabled its employees to work their way up the corporate ladder to a solid position and a good wage. In short, it changed our traditional way of life.

I don't have any grand conclusions to make about social justice, by the way. I just wanted to let you know what we're trying to put the kibosh on around here.

Any pro-union folks want to respond?

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