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Wal-Mart
December 4, 2002 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Wal-Mart's Female Trouble
With shopping on many people's minds these days, here's a story detailing charges of worker discrimination practiced at that store everyone knows (it's also America's largest private employer).

An informed consumer is a responsible consumer. Know where your money goes.
posted by mapalm (58 comments total)

 
That article was written backwards. The unfinished trial and personal stories aren't what matter. Allegations aren't important because anyone can make them for any reason. Proving them is what matters.

On the other hand, the stuff later on makes sense. Wal-Mart refuses to disclose the location of its factories, has been found guilty many times before (but not always), etc. Those things could convince people to shop somewhere else until Wal-Mart gets its act together.

In other words, if your political goal is to fix or bring down an evil corporation, you'll have a better time converting those people who disagree with you if you present the facts. This fragment says it all: "...Dukes v. Wal-Mart could be the largest civil rights class-action suit in history, affecting more than 700,000 women. " Could be. Call back when it is.
posted by gleemax at 9:31 AM on December 4, 2002


The fact that the class-action suit has yet to be approved is missing the point. Seems pretty obvious to me (and to several judges) that Wal-Mart does indeed discriminate; whether it has gone to court yet is irrelevant.
posted by mapalm at 9:35 AM on December 4, 2002


Every large company is routinely sued for discrimination on a variety of bases. Since Wal-Mart is the largest employer in the country, one would expect that it would have the largest number of lawsuits filed against it. But don't confuse allegations with reality. I have personal knowledge of several discrimination suits against Wal-Mart. Of those suits, all but one were thrown out by the judge. The reamaining case was rejected by a jury.

Many, many plaintiffs' lawyers attempt to certify their case as a class action (because the potential damages -- and, therefore, the contingent legal fees -- can be so much greater). Most don't succeed because employment law does not lend itself well to the class action format.

The "facts" cited in this article -- such as "Women make up 72 percent of Wal-Mart's sales work force but only 33 percent of its managers." -- are meaningless from a discrimination standpoint, or to anyone who understands labor trends and statistics, but surely sound impressive to readers of The Nation.
posted by pardonyou? at 9:46 AM on December 4, 2002


The "facts" cited in this article...are meaningless from a discrimination standpoint.

And what about from a just and humanitarian standpoint? Or is it that as long as it's "legal," it's all OK?
posted by mapalm at 9:55 AM on December 4, 2002


Wait a minute. If you're accused of murder, does it mean you're worthless trash that should be summarily executed? Innocent until proven guilty. Thank you.
posted by gleemax at 10:00 AM on December 4, 2002


One could write a tome on the nastiness of Wal-Mart business practices, and this article only begins to scratch the surface.

My dad is a trucker, and says that whenever any of his trucker buddies receive orders to pick up or deliver to Wal-Mart, they immediately start cursing.

Truckers are paid by the mile or kilometre, not by the hour. Most warehouses recognize this and make an honest effort to turn the trucks around and get them out of the warehouse as quickly as possible. Not Wal-Mart though. A trucker delivering there usually has to hang around all day, unpaid, and this wasted day will probably mean a day less at home that weekend. Wal-Mart knows that no trucking company can afford to lose its business, so they don't care how much they inconvenience the truckers.

I'll be watching this suit. Wal-Mart doesn't care about bad publicity, and is only concerned with its profit margin. And it's difficult to bring pressure to bear on that bottom line when most of the people who shop there have no viable other choice. It seems to me that lawsuits and better laws are the only way to get Wal-Mart to clean up its act.
posted by orange swan at 10:01 AM on December 4, 2002


The country's largest private employer has some disgruntled employees? Say it ain't so!

Extortion is the only solution here. Get Jesse Jackson on the phone, pronto!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:04 AM on December 4, 2002


There may be a lot of reasons not to shop at Wal-Mart. Class-action discrimination suits that have not even been accepted by a court of law is not one of them.
posted by JollyWanker at 10:06 AM on December 4, 2002


For further reading, the book Nickel and Dimed has an entire chapter devoted to the author's stint as a Wal-Mart worker.
posted by dr_dank at 10:30 AM on December 4, 2002


mapalm: And what about from a just and humanitarian standpoint? Or is it that as long as it's "legal," it's all OK?

No, my point was that simply saying "72% of your sales force is female, but only 33% of your managers" doesn't tell you whether that's bad or good in relation to the relevant labor pool. While it might be nice, Wal-Mart can't just wave its hand and say "Starting today, 50% of our managers will be women!" There are decades of history and labor market pressures that bear on every company's current ratio of men-to-women (or any other category). Wal-Mart's numbers may actually be impressive compared to other discount retailers or to the average employer. They certainly don't seem out of line to me. In fact, according to the study reported at this site:

Of the total number of women in the workforce, 28.7 percent are in the "managerial and professional specialty occupation" category.

So Wal-Mart, with 33%, appears to be ahead of the curve.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:38 AM on December 4, 2002


I have personal knowledge of several discrimination suits against Wal-Mart. Of those suits, all but one were thrown out by the judge. The reamaining case was rejected by a jury.

In Petty v. Wal-Mart the Defendants only won a ruling refusing to certify the STATE-WIDE class of 174,000 employees in Ohio alegedly worked outside of state labor laws, that's a slippery way out, not one based on merit of the case. Of course Petty is a drop in the bucket for Wal-Mart's labor woes however. Dukes IS the largest class filed [PDF] with OVER 700,000 employees already on record!

It sucks when one or two digruntled folks sue an employer for some reason or other, but I think it is a little more interesting when a million of your employees sue you for labor violations
posted by Pollomacho at 10:44 AM on December 4, 2002


Ah, but the counsel for the plaintiffs did their homework, pardonyou:

A study conducted for the Dukes plaintiffs by economist Marc Bendick found such discrepancies to be far less pronounced among Wal-Mart's competitors, which could boast of more than 50 percent female management. Even more striking, comparing Wal-Mart stores to competitors in the same location, Bendick's study found little geographic variation in these ratios, and little change over time. In fact, the percentage of women among Wal-Mart's 1999 management lagged behind that of its competitors in 1975.

Ahead of the curve, eh?
posted by ursus_comiter at 10:44 AM on December 4, 2002


pardonyou? sez: Wal-Mart's numbers may actually be impressive compared to other discount retailers or to the average employer.

ursus_comiter beat me to the reply.
posted by mapalm at 10:48 AM on December 4, 2002


I don't doubt that Wal-Mart is a lousy place to work, and that shoppers are entitled to spend their money based on that presumption. But pardonyou? is correct: those statistics are meaningless in a vacuum. What are the female employment numbers for the retail sector? For other discounters? How many retail cashiers get health insurance, or can pay for it themselves?

Now, this lawsuit may indeed have a salutary effect. When Denny's was charged with all those discrimination complaints, they hired a new CEO, who cleaned house, and made Denny's a model for every company in the nation. Maybe Wal-Mart needs a similar kick in the pants to change their culture to one that promotes diversity and a more enlightened approach. Still, I'm unconvinced that Wal-Mart is anything more than representative of an aggressively cost-cutting industry, and a convenient whipping-boy for Nation readers for other reasons -- sweatshop accusations, small-town economics, and (don't ignore it) a certain amount of class division.

Pollomacho: As evocative as it is to say "a million of your employees are suing", it's patently untrue. A handful are suing, and are framing their suit as representing a class of plaintiffs, which could be that high. When my credit card company was sued for fraudulent fee practices, my sole involvement was receiving a mailing after the settlement asking how I wanted my $1.50 disbursed to me.
posted by dhartung at 10:49 AM on December 4, 2002


Of the total number of women in the workforce, 28.7 percent are in the "managerial and professional specialty occupation" category.

So Wal-Mart, with 33%, appears to be ahead of the curve.


Nice statistical analysis, pardonyou. You're comparing the percentage of working women who are managers with the percentage of Wal-Mart managers who are women. How can you draw any inference whatsoever from that bit of information.

What you'd really need to know is what percentage of managers other similar retail establishments are women. Which ursus_comiter has conveniently provided for you.
posted by anapestic at 10:50 AM on December 4, 2002


You know what they say about statistics (and economists -- particularly those hired by plaintiffs), don't you, ursus?

And Pollomacho, a million employees have not sued Wal-Mart for labor violations (in the active sense of the verb "to sue"). One group of plaintiffs is attempting to have a class certified that would cover 700,000 Wal-Mart employees. Big difference. And again, it's the largest employer -- you would expect it to have the most lawsuits.

Another thing worth mentioning -- Wal-Mart is not like IBM or General Motors. It's a discount retailer. Its wages are low, and turnover high. Many more people separate from Wal-Mart than from other large companies. The more separations, the more potential lawsuits.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:53 AM on December 4, 2002


Wal-Mart may have a higher than average percentage of female managers, but that doesn't put them ahead of the curve in any way. Note that 72% of their workforce is female. A fair comparison would be to state the number of female managers in another industry with a high percentage of female workers.

28.7% may be the standard for all industry, but I doubt that 72% of the total American workforce is female.
posted by mikeh at 10:55 AM on December 4, 2002


Many more people separate from Wal-Mart than from other large companies.

Um, do you mean quit? Are fired? Laid off?

"Separate from" is almost as distasteful a euphemism as "downsized."
posted by mapalm at 11:03 AM on December 4, 2002


Another reason to boycott Walmart : Its other female trouble
posted by crunchland at 11:06 AM on December 4, 2002


anapestic: "Nice statistical analysis, pardonyou. You're comparing the percentage of working women who are managers with the percentage of Wal-Mart managers who are women. How can you draw any inference whatsoever from that bit of information."

Ah, right you are. I did compare apples to oranges. So let me compare apples to apples, according to Congressperson Carolyn Maloney:

Women are in fact now more than 50 percent of the U.S. workforce, but they are still only 12 percent of the managers.

So when I said it was 28.7%, I was wrong. It's only 12% So Wal-Mart appears even more ahead of the curve. And I'm sorry, but I flat-out do not believe the report (commissioned by the plaintiffs) finding the Wal-Mart's competitors have 50% women in their managerial ranks. Second, I happen to also know quite a bit about Wal-Mart's closest competitor, and can safely say that it's not true.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:07 AM on December 4, 2002


So Wal-Mart, with 33%, appears to be ahead of the curve

Wal-Mart is behind the curve within its industry. When Wal-Mart is compared with similar competing industries in low-end retail, a greater percentage of their managers are women. In fact, the percentage of management that was female that Wal-Mart had in 1999 is comparable to the percentage of management that was female among its competitors in 1975. (both statistics from the linked article)
posted by deanc at 11:08 AM on December 4, 2002


Many more people separate from Wal-Mart than from other large companies.

Um, do you mean quit? Are fired? Laid off?


All of the above. It wasn't meant as a euphamism, but rather as a catch-all. Companies still get many lawsuits from employees who "quit" or are "laid off," not just those that are "fired."
posted by pardonyou? at 11:08 AM on December 4, 2002


And, because there's two sides to every story (although you would never know that from reading The Nation), you might want to consider this:
Bill Wertz, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, said the company has 962,000 employees overall, and that 63 percent of those are women.

That’s more than 600,000 women.

Wal-Mart also argues that women serve as executive vice presidents, regional vice presidents, senior vice presidents, vice presidents and assistant general counsels, and hold other senior-level positions.

The company said women hold 37 percent of 55,000 management-level positions with the chain.

“Comparisons of Wal-Mart with other companies need to be made carefully because there are significant differences in how companies classify ‘management’ positions,” the company said it its statement. “Wal-Mart, for example, doesn’t consider department ‘managers’ in our stores to be management positions (they’re not salaried). Women hold many of these jobs. If we included these, our overall percentage would probably be close to 50 percent.”
Of course, I'm sure the "expert" hired by the plaintiffs took all that into account.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:15 AM on December 4, 2002


Ha! So does this mean that all those times my friends and I committed random acts of terrorism in Wal-Mart on weeknights, we were contributing to the feminist cause? I knew that warm fuzzy feeling I was getting couldn't be just the giddiness one experiences after setting up a campsite in childrenswear and then setting all of the lobsters loose in the pharmacy.
posted by saladin at 11:18 AM on December 4, 2002


The article says: "Women make up 72 percent of Wal-Mart's sales work force but only 33 percent of its managers. A study conducted for the Dukes plaintiffs by economist Marc Bendick found such discrepancies to be far less pronounced among Wal-Mart's competitors, which could boast of more than 50 percent female management."

From the way it's worded, I can't tell if they mean one of the competitors has over 50% female management or all of the competitors have an average over 50%. As well, the article doesn't mention how the study defined "management," which is highly suspect. Did they use a standard definition or just ask the companies and use their definition, or what?
posted by gleemax at 11:24 AM on December 4, 2002


Wal-Mart has so many suits pending against it right now that there is a Nashville lawyer that makes his living by categorizing the suits against them! Of course most of these are your simple, guy falls down on slick floor, sues, sort of deals, but many MANY are labor disputes. Dukes, although the largest and most prominent, is however just one of the many, I metioned Petty, but what about the age discrimination suits, the other sex discrimination suits, the disibility discrimination suits, the race discrimination suits, the violations of state and federal labor laws in virtually every state of the union, apparently there is more than just a little bit of slip-and-fall going on over at Wal-Mart. I'm not going to say that this sort of thing doesn't go on at other companies, but it looks like SOMETHING is rotten in Arkansas!
posted by Pollomacho at 11:28 AM on December 4, 2002


Also, the article doesn't mention how the study chose who Wal-Mart's competitors are, either, or who those mysterious competitors are. I need more information before I'll believe a claim like that.
posted by gleemax at 11:28 AM on December 4, 2002


As linked before gleemax: the Dukes v Wal-Mart suit itself has pretty clear language as to what is being alleged.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:37 AM on December 4, 2002


Facts are meaningless, you can use facts to prove anything that's remotely true! Facts, schmacks.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:49 AM on December 4, 2002


you know 9 out of 10 times whenever something about women's rights comes up on metafilter, the clueless meter jumps right off the charts - this thread, the eminem thread, the women in golf thread are the ones that come to mind most readily, though if i thought about it i'm sure there'd be much more. i can't believe how many of you are so quick to assume that if a woman cries foul, she's lying. it makes my stomach turn.
posted by twentynine at 11:59 AM on December 4, 2002


Thank you, mapalm, for linking to this article, and twentynine, for saying out loud what I was thinking when I started reading the comments.
posted by kristin at 12:11 PM on December 4, 2002


In defense of those who don't believe the allegations, 29, the same could be said in reverse, that EVERY time a woman cries foul its a fully merited allegation is just a false!
posted by Pollomacho at 12:20 PM on December 4, 2002


29: The reason why I look at this suit and others like it with suspicion has nothing to do with women's rights or equality. I know from experience and from keeping my eyes open that many (but not most) Americans have a weakness for using the legal system to extort money out of people and companies, and that trial lawyers are perfectly happy to encourage this tendency. The reactions in this forum critical of this lawsuit would very likely be reaching the same conclusion if the suit was not based on gender discrimination, but instead on some other gender-neutral claim.

Of course, if the article in The Nation was better written and less obviously slanted, reaction against it might not be so pronounced.

the clueless meter jumps right off the charts

Troll. Don't take the bait.
posted by deadcowdan at 12:29 PM on December 4, 2002


i can't believe how many of you are so quick to assume that if a woman cries foul, she's lying. it makes my stomach turn.

Who, exactly, is doing that? The point is that allegations are very cheap. Until proven, it's wrong to brand the company as an evil, woman-hating enterprise simply based on those allegations.
posted by pardonyou? at 12:34 PM on December 4, 2002


Can't we just all agree that WalMart sucks, and anything we can do to mess with them is worth doing?
posted by Kafkaesque at 12:47 PM on December 4, 2002


Although I'm debating myself, I will have to agree with pardonyou? on that point, these are ALLEGATIONS, last time I checked people are still innocent until proven guilty, even in class action civil suits. I would like to point out that the conditions of this case make me a bit uncomfortable towards believing in Wal-Mart's innocence and for sake of debate and discussion, I'll argue that they are guilty as charged already.

Things that disturb me most in this case, the women have asked for no punitive damages, only reinstatement of wages at the higher merit based level and end to discriminatory practices (the last "such other relief as this Court deems..." is standard legalese), second that their expert witness was one of the foremost scholars in Mathematical Psychology while Wal-Mart withdrew their expert from even testifying.

And yes, Wal-Mart sucks.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:52 PM on December 4, 2002


Can't we just all agree that WalMart sucks, and anything we can do to mess with them is worth doing?

See, I can get behind Mr. Esque's suggestion. I'm all for avoiding Wal-Mart because the stores are ugly eyesores, because their advertising is nauseatingly faux-heartfelt (heartfeltesque?), and for twenty other reasons. And, in fact, I don't shop at Wal-Mart (for those reasons)! But "big company gets sued" does not necessarily equal "big company discriminates against women."
posted by pardonyou? at 1:04 PM on December 4, 2002


No we cannot all agree that Walmart sucks. Walmart is not a favorite of mine, but with all the choices available to American (and other) consumers, it says something about their operational and managerial competence that they have been able to land atop the heap of retailers. Look what happened to K-Mart when they tried to compete head-on. Just what is it about them that makes them suck so much more than any other retailer in this country?
posted by deadcowdan at 1:07 PM on December 4, 2002


it says something about their operational and managerial competence that they have been able to land atop the heap of retailers

It says something about their complete and utter disregard for the welfare of the people who work in their stores, or for the human rights violations they practice in their sweatshops. It says something about the total two-facedness of their warm and fuzzy ad campaigns while they don't really give a piece of poo about anything but profit margin.

God damn the happy face man.
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:12 PM on December 4, 2002


Who said they sucked any worse than K-Mart or Target? They ALL suck! Its the Mediocratizing of America, everyone is being driven to mediocrity by discount, bulk sales crapola chain stores. What happened to quality of service or product? It got killed by Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Outback Steakhouse, TGIFridays, etc... These are not great places to shop/eat, don't fool yourself. These outfits pull into town and suck what little life is left out of a town until all that's left are the hulking concrete strip mall coffins on the by-pass. Yes, Wal-Mart sucks, horribly!
posted by Pollomacho at 1:16 PM on December 4, 2002


And those Blooming Onion Appetizers! And those suspenders! And all that perkiness!

I...I just can't take it!

*head explodes*
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:20 PM on December 4, 2002


They ALL suck! Its the Mediocratizing of America, everyone is being driven to mediocrity etc, etc, etc

I know this is an easy and popular position to take, because it makes one feel superior, but it has no more validity in the real world than Walmart's smileyface adverts. If you don't like Walmart, or K-mart, or Outback, or Sam Goody's or whatever, you have plenty of options. Unfortunately, higher quality service and products will cost you a lot more. No one is being "driven" to mediocrity - they simply don't want to shell out $80 for a shirt at a swanky mens-wear store when Meijer has one that resembles it for $15. I personally am more than willing to shell out more money for things like that shirt that matter to me. I am perfectly willing to shop at Target for things (like clothes) that don't. And I strongly suspect that most Americans think similarly. Thank God for choices.
posted by deadcowdan at 1:45 PM on December 4, 2002


i don't know about this lawsuit against Wal-mart but Kafka's exploded head and brain bits are looking mighty tasty about now.
posted by poopy at 1:50 PM on December 4, 2002


It says something about their complete and utter disregard for the welfare of the people who work in their stores...

That's not a true statement, kaf. I've known many in Wal-Mart management, including some at fairly high levels down yonder in Bentonville, Arkansas. It's simply not fair to say that they had "complete and utter disregard for the welfare" of their employees. You do have to appreciate the nature of their business. This isn't the type of job where an employee says: "My dad worked here, and my grandpappy before him..." People turn over all the time, and the pay is necessarily low. There isn't the opportunity to form those touchy-feely, long-term relationships with all the HR perks. And employees know going in that the pay is low -- if they think their skills deserve more pay, they're free to pursue work elsewhere (I know, I know, free market bullshit).
posted by pardonyou? at 1:50 PM on December 4, 2002


Union stories

Wal-Mart: Remaking Our World

There's just so much out there. You can search on Google just as well as I can.

When I say WalMart sucks, I mean it sucks for what it does to people. I'm sure their electronics etc. are just fine.

But there is a cost for the low price, and that cost is human. Some things just shouldn't be that cheap.

My choice is not to patronize a store with known anti-union and anti-worker policies. And I think it's disgusting the way their commercials portray their nice family atmosphere. That's all.
posted by Kafkaesque at 2:05 PM on December 4, 2002


If you don't like Walmart, or K-mart, or Outback, or Sam Goody's or whatever, you have plenty of options.

Actually, increasingly in towns across America, you don't have plenty of options, precisely because companies like Wal-Mart have forced smaller, independent operations out of business. (FYI, Sam Goody's is Wal-Mart.)

And yes, I would take the next step and argue that it is because of things like unfair labor practices that these companies have succeeded in what others have termed the Mediocratizing of America.
posted by mapalm at 2:05 PM on December 4, 2002


I know this is an easy and popular position to take, because it makes one feel superior

First off, let's leave the name calling out of this.

If you don't like Walmart, or K-mart, or Outback, or Sam Goody's or whatever, you have plenty of options.

No, that's the point, the options are gone. When was the last time you saw a "swanky mens-wear store" down on the town square that was open for business? These places have all been driven out of business by the chains. You have no choice, you can possibly choose between a more expensive crap item (say a Tommy Hilfiger shirt) at one chain store or go to the knock off store and buy it there and pay for a shoddy version of the same crap. Only in the cities where the chains are seemingly afraid to go can you find mom-and-pop stores, but set foot in the 'burbs and its Wal-Mart, Meijer (not sure what that is but I'm assuming its a discount retail chain), K-Mart, Chilis, Bennigans, Taco Bell, etc... Hell, even the things you read are determined by what they sell at Books a-Million, etc... You find me a non-chain, mom-and-pop choice in say, Murfreesboro, TN or Evansville, IN or Rockville, MD that makes it very long, I'm sure there's PLENTY of individual examples, but for every one example there's a dozen that fail.

But that's really not the point of this thread anyway, the point is that Wal-Mart has a massive string of labor suits and many look to have some real meat in them!
posted by Pollomacho at 2:12 PM on December 4, 2002


I would leave the bookstore criticism out of your rant Pollomacho. I think it can be conclusively argued that while many of us miss small owner-operated bookstores (I used to work at one that closed when Borders came to town) there is no question that the proliferation of large retail bookstores, ala Borders or Barnes and Nobles superstores has vastly increased the availability of quality (and sometimes pulp) publications to the American public. No question. The huge selection these stores offers allows a freedom of choice an expression previously missing from anywhere in America other than University towns and major metropolitan areas. And these stores, while they may offer discounts on new released hardcover generic fiction, have generally stolen customers from smaller stores because of the shear variety of reading choice they offer, not because they vastly undercut competitors. Look on the back of any paperback book. The price that is listed there is pretty much what you are going to pay, at Borders or at Mom and Pop.
posted by pjgulliver at 2:38 PM on December 4, 2002


Though I run the risk of derailment, it is worth noting that Borders itself used to be a "mom-and-pop" operation, i.e., an independently owned and operated store, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. And it was wonderful.

I remember coming back to America after a few years living abroad to discover that it had become a national chain. I remember, too, being conflicted about that development.

While the store today continues to carry a good selection of materials, their anti-union policies (in Chicago, at least) have left me disappointed.
posted by mapalm at 2:52 PM on December 4, 2002


"Wal-Mart, for example, doesn’t consider department ‘managers’ in our stores to be management positions (they’re not salaried). "

That's interesting. When I was a department manager for Wal-Mart, the company had us declared (by the NLRB, I think, but I could be wrong about that) to be management so we couldn't join a union or take part in the unionization of a store. They even made us sit through a little four hour meeting/class about it that reiterated that, because we were management, we had an obligation to spy on the non-management employees and report unionist activity.


In my experience with that company, store management is a boy's club.
posted by tolkhan at 3:05 PM on December 4, 2002


I've known many in Wal-Mart management, including some at fairly high levels down yonder in Bentonville, Arkansas. It's simply not fair to say that they had "complete and utter disregard for the welfare" of their employees.

i'm sure they feel a great sense of loss when their employees keel over and die. but at least the insurance money helps sooth the pain. do keep your chip up, brave brave management types.
posted by lescour at 3:08 PM on December 4, 2002


Kafkaesque says:
When I say WalMart sucks, I mean it sucks for what it does to people. I'm sure their electronics etc. are just fine.

My choice is not to patronize a store with known anti-union and anti-worker policies. And I think it's disgusting the way their commercials portray their nice family atmosphere.


More power to ya, Kaf. If the reason you dislike Walmart or any other store is this, I have absolutely no problem with that. What I was opposing was this smug "I have better taste than the masses because I avoid Starbucks/hate Gallo wine/don't like Borders" that seems to be quite common here.

mapalm says:
increasingly in towns across America, you don't have plenty of options, precisely because companies like Wal-Mart have forced smaller, independent operations out of business.

This is assuming two things: 1) the market for whatever good or service the independent was selling is never going to grow, and the sales Walmart rings up come directly out of the independent's sales; and 2) the independent was any good to begin with.

Let's take books, which has already been touched on. In 1990, there were (by my probably imperfect reckoning) there were five or six bookstores within easy reach of my apartment. Today, although the players have changed, that number is pretty much the same. The big change, however, is in selection and availability. Those five bookstores in aggregate probably have five times the floor space as the 1990 group. Clothing stores are the same. The number of different stores is much higher now, and the few local merchants that had anything going for them 12 years ago are still around, and have even expanded. These places have not all been driven out of business by the chains; they have personalized service, quality goods and customer loyalty that the big guys just can't match. They also happen to be a fair bit more expensive than Walmart, so back to my earlier point: if you don't care about the fashion or the quality of the stitchwork, you buy at Walmart. (I mostly don't care.) If you do, you buy from the local guy that has knowledgeable and helpful salespeople on the floor. Your choice (and yes, you do still have a choice).

Pollomacho says:
let's leave the name calling out of this.

It's not namecalling. I'm often guilty of the same thing myself. It's very simple: one picks a topic about which one is knowledgeable and passionate (in my case music) and shakes one's head about the dumb, clueless choices others who do not share one's level of knowledge and passion make on this topic. It gives one at least a temporary sense of superiority. It's mostly harmless, but I do think it often sells those one looks down one's nose at short. Who am I to deny that the woman in line ahead of me buying a back-catalog title from Yanni whatever pleasure she gets from that? And how do I really know that she's the clueless sheep I imagine her to be? Perhaps she's actually as knowledgeable as I, and just happens to like Yanni. God knows I've got a few guilty musical pleasures.

Anyway, enough for now. My fingers are numb.
posted by deadcowdan at 3:28 PM on December 4, 2002


I think for the most part it's wrong to attribute to discrimination on a large scale what could just as easily be attributed to laziness, selfishness, and stupidity on a small scale.

Yes, Wal Mart is not necessarily a good place to work. I know a guy who had to quit because when he was working during the school year when he was in high school, they kept scheduling him to come in at noon on weekdays. I know a lot of people at similar jobs at many companies asked to perform managerial tasks when their title (and therefore salary) are not managerial. And experience isn't the main prerequisite for promotion; you need to be both a leader to your fellow workers and a faithful follower of rules.

I find it hard to believe people don't have options, but that's just because Wal Mart is so tiny in this area compared to Meijer, which is unionized under the UFCW, though the pay's not much better and layoffs are still common. But, you know, I don't think employers like Wal Mart need to provide things like health insurance to all employees, considering that many of them are students covered on their parents' insurance. Most jobs at Wal Mart are not careers.
posted by dagnyscott at 7:53 PM on December 4, 2002


Most jobs at Wal Mart are not careers.

For many people in this country, service-industry jobs are careers, i.e., employment that covers long stretches of one's working life, during which efforts are made to rise through the ranks and secure better pay, more benefits, greater security - just like any job.

To dismiss that reaity seems rather disrespectful to an awful lot of workers in this country.
posted by mapalm at 7:21 AM on December 5, 2002


mapalm: many people, but I don't think most. Plus, Wal Mart is at the lower end of the range of positions considered "service industry jobs," equivalent with fast food, which offer fewer incentives than service industry jobs, say, at a store you'd be likely to find at the mall. Or a job at a decent restaraunt.
posted by dagnyscott at 5:18 PM on December 5, 2002


I have a friend who is quitting his job in a Borders store in a few weeks, after he casts a vote in favor of unionizing.

And Sam Goody isn't part of Wal-Mart - its parent company is Best Buy. It's funny how Best Buy tends to charge $3-$4 less for the same CDs, but I guess it's in how each store is perceived.
posted by britain at 7:34 AM on December 6, 2002


right, britain....i was thinking of Sam's Club, which IS ownded by Wal-Mart.

and dagnyscott: I did say "many people," not most. And my contention still stands that service-industry workers are somehow looked down upon, and their issues and concerns dismissed.
posted by mapalm at 8:51 AM on December 6, 2002


Has anybody here read "How Wal-Mart Is Destroying America and What You Can Do About It"? Covers all this stuff. Anti-union practices, some discrimination lawsuits, , what they do to towns, underhanded practices, sweatshop labor, etc.. the list goes on. And they're some of the richest bastards around.
posted by destro at 4:46 PM on December 6, 2002


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