Documentary journalism? Activism?
November 15, 2005 2:16 PM   Subscribe

Wal-Mart: the High Cost of Low Price, the latest film by Robert Greenwald, director/producer of last year's Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism (mentioned here and here), is being screened across the country this week in a private activist-driven model used by Outfoxed. The campaign is driven by Wake Up Wal-Mart, a UFCW-driven campaign to change the retail giant's reputation and unionize its employees. The film's trailer has gotten a reaction from Wal-Mart's PR division. Is the political documentary a new form of journalism, or a form of disinformation?
posted by graymouser (71 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Is the political documentary a new form of journalism, or a form of disinformation?

Probably both, but more likely the latter because people who take the time to make a movie about something usually have an opinion on it. And people have a hard time not letting their opinions creep into and color their work.
posted by dios at 2:26 PM on November 15, 2005


I guess it depends who you ask (For instance, I think most of Kopel's arguments are pretty weak refutations). But pretty much any slick documentary appeals to the most base reactions, rather than say, reading a book.
posted by iamck at 2:28 PM on November 15, 2005


A local bike shop had a screening where they discussed the movie, and their reasons for refusing to work on bikes purchased from big box retailers.
posted by fixedgear at 2:28 PM on November 15, 2005


For instance, anyone who has the desire to make a film about Walmart's employee policies probably isn't doing it out of a scientist's desire to observe it. Rather, they are doing it out of a desire to make their point. One can't expect such a thing to take on the form of a documentary. It will be a political message movie, and all political messages are disinformation because the whole issue is never being addressed.
posted by dios at 2:31 PM on November 15, 2005


These news documentaries are taking the place of long form news that was abandoned about the time CNN started getting popular and networks found out that if you turned news into a form of pornography (only focusing on the money shots) they could turn a profit. There is no possible way to flesh out an issue in a 10 minute segment with a radical left winger yelling at a radical right winger, but it's great porn. Corporations win, democracy loses.
posted by any major dude at 2:31 PM on November 15, 2005


A local bike shop had a screening where they discussed the movie, and their reasons for refusing to work on bikes purchased from big box retailers.

What were their reasons? That seems like a weird stance.
posted by COBRA! at 2:31 PM on November 15, 2005


Im not sure "disinformation" is really a fair word. That word choice sort of smacks of politicizing a question by framing it a certain way. It's quite possible that the movie presents one perspective on walmart and that it does so with accurate information.
posted by Eric123 at 2:34 PM on November 15, 2005


Okay, who's seen the movie?

*crickets*

Just checking... let the uninformed speculation commence...
posted by freq at 2:35 PM on November 15, 2005


From the Walmart press release:

Greenwald uses footage of another interviewee who states: “No Wal-Mart in Chicago, they don’t pay a living wage, they can’t come to Chicago.” However, the average wage for full-time hourly Wal-Mart associates in the Chicago area is $10.69 – more than $4 above the Illinois minimum wage of $6.50 and $1 above the $9.68 living wage recently established in Chicago.

If the average wage is so close to the living wage, doesn't that indicate that many employees make less than a living wage?
posted by eddydamascene at 2:35 PM on November 15, 2005


Is the political documentary a new form of journalism....

No, unless you consider Pare Lorentz a new film maker (or, for that matter, Leni Reifenstahl or John Grierson).
posted by Tuwa at 2:41 PM on November 15, 2005


Excuse me for not hopping on the I hate Walmart bandwagon, and I don't think I'll be paying 13 dollars to find out just what it is I've been missing, either.

There will always be those who need to point fingers and condemn that with which they do not agree, and that is something that I think makes our society what it is (i.e. not necessarily a bad thing). However, I am more inclined to highlight the excellence where I see it, something or someone everybody can learn from. Yeah.
posted by GooseOnTheLoose at 2:42 PM on November 15, 2005


Yeah, what a sweet sweet bit of corporate PR spin is that?!

Spin: ...However, the average wage for full-time hourly Wal-Mart associates in the Chicago area is $10.69...

Um, so that means that a) the average is higher than the minimum (on preview eddyadamscene's right on). And that b), um, How many full-time employees does Wal-Mart have in the Chicago Area? I'd bet it's fewer than 10 per store. We all know that Wal-Mart hates to have full-time employees, 'cause then they want things like benefits.

So basically, the quote is almost certainly true. Pay the living wage to all your employees and then we'll talk about it. And we'll stop being disengenous with our facts! Ha!
posted by zpousman at 2:42 PM on November 15, 2005


What were their reasons? That seems like a weird stance.

The logic was a little hard for me to follow, but they claimed that the bikes are so poorly designed, engineered, manufactured and assembled that they can be dangerous for the mechanics who have to service them and the riders who use them. Poorly machined parts can have casting flash that can cause cuts, some critical parts (brakes) are so bad that it is not possible to make them safe to use.

The shop is located on the Penn campus. The owner claimed that the average Penn student bought these bikes in a sort of faux ironic way, and that they would just abandon them at the end of the semester. These students have usually been victims of bike thefts, but these bikes are safe since no self-respecting bike thief would bother to steal one.
posted by fixedgear at 2:43 PM on November 15, 2005


"in a sort of faux ironic way"

Weird.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:46 PM on November 15, 2005


A local bike shop had a screening where they discussed the movie, and their reasons for refusing to work on bikes purchased from big box retailers.

The bikes you find at WalMart, KMart and Target are so shoddily constructed and poorly assembled that attempting to work on them is a lost cause. That's reason enough for many shops to refuse to work on them. This movie gives them a more PC excuse than "your bike is a piece of shit."
posted by letitrain at 2:47 PM on November 15, 2005


The moment perfect objectivity in reporting actually occurs, someone, please make an FPP about it; that would really be news. Being subjective about a thing doesn't mean the details presented are untrue. Why does making a point suddenly make something suspect? All academic work is trying to make a point. Is there something wrong with points all of a sudden?
posted by Hildegarde at 2:47 PM on November 15, 2005


Also of note: the pro-Wal-Mart, inanely titled counter-documentary "Why Wal-Mart Works: And Why That Makes Some People CRAZY," plus an LA Times story comparing the two battling documentaries.

The daily show aired an excerpt from the former a few nights back, it included some pretty scary comments from a Wal-Mart employee concerning how grateful she was that God had put someone like Sam Walton on this earth. Yikes.
posted by whir at 2:47 PM on November 15, 2005


Outfoxed didn't try to be objective. Why should this?

Having said that: Who cares? I thought Outfoxed was moronic, but I don't remember anyone claiming it represented a purely neutral, journalistic perspective. If they want to sling that garbage, let them. I'm of the mind that a man's ideals are often best defined by the nature of his opponents -- and films like that make me look pretty darn good.

Wal-Mart = greed. I've said before, the Wal-Mart problem was best defined by ultra-liberal Robert Reich: we make choices as consumers that don't represent our values as workers or citizens. I love the Wal-Mart arguments, personally; because I think it's a horribly corrosive influence on our society, and because these debates tend to draw out the lunatics on both sides of the aisle. It's healthy and it's entertainment.
posted by cribcage at 2:49 PM on November 15, 2005


Also: Frontline on Wal-Mart.
posted by cribcage at 2:50 PM on November 15, 2005


I purchased the DVD and watched it last night. It's very ancedotal - they do mentioned some facts and figures but don't provide much in the way of sources (at least not in the movie itself). Though some of the numbers seem underwhelming (like the dollar amount of subsidies given to Wal-Mart and Medicare/welfare given to Wal Mart employees) - I'm usually annoyed when phrases like "they made $1 billion dollars in profits" are thrown around without any context and lots of ominous insinuation. Overall, I thought Outfoxed did a more thorough job of "proving" the case.

I don't mean any of the above as criticism. I viewed the movie as more of a tought-provoker than a comprehensive research piece that would lead viewers to think more critically and maybe do some of their own research. That most of the ancedotes came from regional/store managers was interesting - I'd be interesting in learning the stories behind the individuals who participated (though I fear smear-campaigns by the movie's critics).
posted by mullacc at 2:50 PM on November 15, 2005


For the record, I've seen the film (and wondered when making the post if anyone else had). It is basically a series of personal narratives, each used to illustrate Wal-Mart's various unethical practices (a small business goes under when Wal-Mart comes to town, a mother puts her kids on Medicare because WM doesn't pay her enough to afford insurance, a couple of workers at a Chinese factory for Wal-Mart, a black woman passed over for promotion time and again, etc.). It's a pretty compelling film from that angle, but I think its lack of any real counterpoint and its narrow focus on certain aspects of Wal-Mart weaken it as an overall statement against what they do. I'd recommend seeing it for the personal effect it brings to the Wal-Mart debate, but not relying on it as a factual source.
posted by graymouser at 2:56 PM on November 15, 2005


Okay, who's been to Iraq??

*crickets*

Just checking... let the uninformed speculation commence...
posted by freq at 4:35 PM CST on November 15


People can make opinions based on a lot things. Very few opinions are based on observable, empirical fact.
posted by dios at 2:58 PM on November 15, 2005


I have a feeling the excellent Frontline piece, mentioned by cribcage, is probably better. Can anyone compare the two?
posted by washburn at 3:00 PM on November 15, 2005


All documentaries have points of view. Any documentarian who pretends otherwise is lying to you.
posted by goatdog at 3:08 PM on November 15, 2005


Heisenberg groaned.
posted by xod at 3:12 PM on November 15, 2005


and all political messages are disinformation because the whole issue is never being addressed

One can take sides on an issue while still being intellectually honest.
posted by eddydamascene at 3:13 PM on November 15, 2005


Do I need to watch the movie? Is it going to convince me that Wal-Mart really and truly does care about more than its own bottom line and keeping its stockholders happy regardless of the wider effects of their supply chain bullying?

No? Okay then.

But if it helps open some other people's eyes then so much the better.
posted by fenriq at 3:15 PM on November 15, 2005


The New Yorker review of this movie (scroll down). Thank you, Remnick.
posted by Danf at 3:26 PM on November 15, 2005


"How many full-time employees does Wal-Mart have in the Chicago Area?"

From the Walmart press release:

-Deletia- "However, the average wage for full-time hourly Wal-Mart associates in the Chicago area is $10.69 – more than $4 above the Illinois minimum wage of $6.50 and $1 above the $9.68 living wage recently established in Chicago."


Prolly lots seeing as Wal-Mart defines "full-time" as 28hrs/week.

Of course lumping 1 $18.00/hr employee with 2 $6.00/hr employees gives you a $10.00 average so would the median wage of Wal-Mart associates be a better indicator? Then again at this point W-M could pay all of it's associates $15.00/hr and I still wouldn't shop there.
posted by MikeMc at 3:37 PM on November 15, 2005


I love how Walmart calls anti-consumerist activists "special interests".
Um, aren't corporate interests special interests?
And isn't the anti-Walmart movement more, oh, grassroots?

Or have I not been getting my RDA of propoganda.

Also: did anyone notice that the "new" store was an ACE hardware store -- i.e., a somewhat smaller big-box? It'd be interesting to know what was there before. Also, it'd be interesting to speak with the store manager about why the store closed up -- perhaps simply the anticipation of a Walmart moving in was enough to make em decide to cut eir losses while ey could?
posted by Deathalicious at 3:39 PM on November 15, 2005


Deathalicious: Do you mean H&H Hardware? I think it must have become, at some point, an Ace franchise but by the time they closed it was no longer such. In any case, it wasn't an Ace corporate-owned store - that family owned the building/land and operated it independently before and, apparently, after it became an Ace franchise. Being an Ace franchise probably brought some advantages such as a national marketing effort, improve supplier relations and maybe even better insurance options (both corporate and health) in exchange for the franchise fee and some effort to conform to Ace standards. That's my guess anyway.
posted by mullacc at 3:48 PM on November 15, 2005


Yeah?!?! Well I'm STILL not shopping there, unless it's late or cold out or otherwise inconvenient to go elsewhere! Take that Sam Walton!
posted by wavespy at 3:50 PM on November 15, 2005


Side note on topic:

Last week, a German court ruled large parts of Wal-Mart's new "ethic guidelines" unconstitutional. Parts that were criticized, were, among others, the ban on love relationships between employees, and an internal hotline with the specific purpose of denouncing colleagues to the management who didn't comply with the guidelines.

Unfortunately, the only link I have is in in German.
posted by uncle harold at 3:52 PM on November 15, 2005


re: that hardware store: Ex-retailer rebuts film on Wal-Mart ...

H&H Hardware in Middlefield shut down nearly three months before a Wal-Mart Supercenter opened around the corner in mid-May.

H&H's founder and patriarch says the big-box competitor wasn't to blame for the demise of the business. Last month, the hardware store reopened under new ownership.

"I think Wal-Mart hurts a lot of small businesses," said Don Hunter, who started H&H in 1962 and is featured in the soon-to-be-released documentary. "But it's not the reason we closed."
posted by probablysteve at 3:53 PM on November 15, 2005


If anyone in the SF Bay Area wants to see "Wal-Mart: the High Cost of Low Price," it's playing tonight at the Roxie. More info here: www.partyprogressive.com [sorta self-post, as one of the screening organizers]
posted by twsf at 4:01 PM on November 15, 2005


Probably both [a new form of journalism and a form of disinformation], but more likely the latter because people who take the time to make a movie about something usually have an opinion on it. And people have a hard time not letting their opinions creep into and color their work.

Absolutely. Anyone who's taken the time to study any issue in depth is almost certainly biased - why would they have spent so much time on a project like that unless they had an ax to grind?

This is why no one should trust so-called "experts" who try and dazzle us common folk with confusing "data" and biased "reasoning."
posted by Western Infidels at 4:14 PM on November 15, 2005


Bulletin: capitalism depends on exploitation.

Pictures at 11.
posted by Decani at 4:15 PM on November 15, 2005


The moment perfect objectivity in reporting actually occurs, someone, please make an FPP about it; that would really be news. Being subjective about a thing doesn't mean the details presented are untrue. Why does making a point suddenly make something suspect? All academic work is trying to make a point. Is there something wrong with points all of a sudden?
posted by Hildegarde at 5:47 PM EST on November 15 [!]


Not really. But it's convenient to say so when the points possibly counter your own point-of-view and show up a corporation or persons for who they really are.

I have to wonder if we've ever been subject to a large scale onslaught of this sort of nonsense that aims to make public inquiry a bad thing which can be easily dismissed. Scientific thinking in America is also suffering from a like attack. Truly deplorable.
posted by juiceCake at 4:17 PM on November 15, 2005


I just an email from my local anti-Wal-Mart chapter. If anyone's near Watsonville or Santa Cruz, they're having a free showing of the movie this Saturday. And note, they have childcare AND free snacks!

WHAT: WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price
WHEN: November 19, 2005 at 5:00 PM
TICKET PRICE: FREE
HOSTED BY: Pajaro Primero: Alliance for Good Jobs and Healthy Neighborhoods.
Childcare will be provided. Free snacks & beverages.
WHERE:
Pajaro Middle School
250 Salinas Rd.
Pajaro, CA 95076
posted by fenriq at 4:47 PM on November 15, 2005


I'm freaked out by the 'down with investigative journalism' attitude expressed by so many on this thread. That a journalist has, or arrives at, a point of view is inevitable and beside the point.
posted by xod at 4:52 PM on November 15, 2005


Also: did anyone notice that the "new" store was an ACE hardware store -- i.e., a somewhat smaller big-box? It'd be interesting to know what was there before. Also, it'd be interesting to speak with the store manager about why the store closed up -- perhaps simply the anticipation of a Walmart moving in was enough to make em decide to cut eir losses while ey could?
posted by Deathalicious at 5:39 PM CST on November 15 [!]


ACE, like True Value Hardware, is a cooperative of independent business owners, not a chain like Home Depot or Lowe's.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 4:53 PM on November 15, 2005


yikes, i guess i expected more from this group. i have seen the movie and cannot understand why we would even discuss "misinformation". we don't start every discussion about a story we saw in a commercial paper or corporate news production with a disclaimer about misinformation -- although we probably should.
posted by dogsplit at 5:17 PM on November 15, 2005


Indeed, my small local indie hardware store, which I love to death, is a member of that co-op, and as a result has just about everything I could ever want from a hardware store at competitive prices to the big boxes. They don't keep really large stuff in stock, but they can order and deliver it. They're thriving quite nicely.
posted by zoogleplex at 5:18 PM on November 15, 2005


dogsplit
I agree, this country needs more investigative journalism, not less.
This doesn't mean we shouldn't suspect the sources, but when the information resonates with what we've heard before and reaffirms it then there is a good possibility of credibility.
Regarding Wal Mart, this is a business that has undermined middle america, moved jobs overseas, negatively impacted local government with tax kickbacks and burdening the local health care system with it's employees it refuses to pay health insurance for and on and on.
The storys that are repeated and confirmed about Wal Mart are not good and are valid.
Wal Mart needs to spend more time fixing it's negative problems with it's employees and fellow citizens and not trying to polish media apples.
It fools no one and damages it's image further by such deception.
posted by mk1gti at 5:46 PM on November 15, 2005


In this study[PDF] on Walmart, one can find many observations and statement , among them let me focus your attention on the following:

A study compared the tax revenue and the costs of public services associated with various types of development projects in Barnstable, Massachusetts.98 It found that big-box retail developments cost more than the revenues they generated, producing an annual net loss of $468 per 1,000 square feet.

While the city gained revenues through property and sales taxes, these were outweighed by expenditures including the costs of general government and public works.


Which is, imho, interesting because it suggest some of the costs probably caused by Walmart are paid by taxpayers ; for instace, let's say we have a basketball field paid and financed by taxpayers, but as they're not really evident or easily seen there's little or no outcry

A study of 165 cities between 1982 and 2002 found that the entry of Wal-Mart stores was significantly
correlated with a decrease in the prices of ten commonly-bought items (groceries were excluded).97 The
price effect was most pronounced in smaller cities and ranged from 1.5-3% in the short run to four times as
much in the long run. For example, holding all else constant, the entry of a Wal-Mart correlated with a 3%
drop in the price of toothpaste in the short run and a 13% drop in the long run. For other products such as
cigarettes, Coke, pants, shirts, and underwear, however, the study found no significant effect.


Very interesting, as it suggest that the most common products most often bought are the baits, aka the ones used to back up the illusion of low price with hard numbers that can't be disproved. The others products probably make up for the difference and raise profits.

I also wouldn't be surprised to learn that some big name accounting firm may not be doing their job well, it happened to Enron and Arthur Andersen.
posted by elpapacito at 6:14 PM on November 15, 2005


Okay, who's been to Iraq??

*crickets*

Just checking... let the uninformed speculation commence...
posted by freq at 4:35 PM CST on November 15

People can make opinions based on a lot things. Very few opinions are based on observable, empirical fact.

posted by dios at 2:58 PM PST on November 15


that's funny
posted by gman at 6:15 PM on November 15, 2005


"Outfoxed" was such a cheap, crappy cable-access-level pseudo-doc. This guy makes what, three of these a year? I wouldn't expect this one to be much better, even though I share his sentiment.
posted by fungible at 6:31 PM on November 15, 2005


I don't know if this movie will tell anyone anything that they don't know already; but I am encouraged if the "house-party" model of film distribution is encouraging people to gather and discuss political issues, and dare to act on their opinons.

As if they were free to do so or something.
posted by eustatic at 6:38 PM on November 15, 2005


*opinions
posted by eustatic at 6:38 PM on November 15, 2005


My dad manages the new ace hardware in middlefield. I still hate wallmart...
posted by angrynative at 6:39 PM on November 15, 2005


I think films like this are a good thing. Wal-mart is a prime example of something that everybody knows is wrong, but nobody does anything about. The facts are all there, you don't have to dig very deep to get to them. What's missing, however, is that people don't care enough to actually do anything about it. That's where movies like this come in. If we can actually make people angry enough, their morality will beat out their desire for convenience, and next time they need socks or toothpaste, they'll go elsewhere.
posted by afroblanca at 6:52 PM on November 15, 2005


I like living in a city. I can walk to the hardware store, where they know me, and they'll do whatever it takes to help me. The local auto mechanic will often fix things for free. All the stores do quick refunds, (OK, the cranky pet store guy just does exchanges, but still...) Their are no lines. You run into friends and neighbors. A neighborhood is kind of like a small town, and you should buy stuff from their stores unless you can't get what you want there.

Driving to a Big Box store is like going to Pluto, as far as I'm concerned. And try calling on the telephone to find out if they have something you want on their shelves. Ha!
posted by kozad at 7:41 PM on November 15, 2005


I'll speak to the issue of poorly-made Wal Mart bicycles. Those things are so shoddily constructed that there is simply no way that even the most talented of mechanics can ever make them safe enough to actually ride.

Working on a Wal Mart bicycle not only jeopardizes the rider's safety, but it exposes the mechanic to a liability that will quickly be exploited by any opportunistic lawyer who smells a 30% settlement fee. This is why so called quick-release wheels no longer have quick-release hubs, and the owner's manuals advise you not to ride off of cliffs.

Further, the inherently cheap purchaser of such a sub-standard product can never be made to understand that the brakes will never work on that bicycle, and it will never shift properly; therefore his $20 tune-up fee does not justify hundreds of dollars worth of shop time on a contraption that wasn't worth the gunpowder to blow it up when it was brand new.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:43 PM on November 15, 2005


Last week, a German court ruled large parts of Wal-Mart's new "ethic guidelines" unconstitutional. Parts that were criticized, were, among others, the ban on love relationships between employees, and an internal hotline with the specific purpose of denouncing colleagues to the management who didn't comply with the guidelines.

I don't get it. How can anything a private company does be unconstitutional? Since when do constitutions bind anyone other than the government?

Not that I'm defending wal-mart. I'm no fan and I don't shop there. And while I haven't seen this movie, there was a showing near me today and I did write it on my calander and mean to go. So umm..yeah...that's better than crickets, right?
posted by duck at 9:44 PM on November 15, 2005


"What's missing, however, is that people don't care enough to actually do anything about it. That's where movies like this come in."

Exactly!

As for the debate on accuracy.. all the source material for the stats and what not are documented on the movie's website here.
posted by jgilliam at 10:10 PM on November 15, 2005


"I don't get it. How can anything a private company does be unconstitutional? Since when do constitutions bind anyone other than the government?"

I'm sorry but you can't eat at this lunch counter.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:34 PM on November 15, 2005


Nice, EB.

Anyway, back to the film, it's showing at the Guild this week, EB, in case you want to check it out. I'm going on Friday.
posted by postmodernmillie at 11:09 PM on November 15, 2005


duck: I don't get it. How can anything a private company does be unconstitutional? Since when do constitutions bind anyone other than the government?

So... if citizens are not bound by a constitution, I guess any rights and amendments do not apply to citizens as well? Can you keep black slaves in the US as long as it's a private company? I'm a bit confused.

But seriously - the German constitution has a part about privacy (ruling out the hotline). Germans also have a sore spot when it comes to people denouncing their peers. And the right to free development of one's personality would rule out the relationship thing.
posted by uncle harold at 11:37 PM on November 15, 2005


Besides, it's a GERMAN constitution. You know, kind of different from that other constitutional democracy we worry about so much. It was, I understand, largely written for them by occupying nations, but I don't know that for certain.

As for local shopping, I haven't been living in the States for 8 years. I've become used to local sorts of stores being the norm. But back in the States, I do remember the old wisdom being "Don't shop there (local)! They 'over-charge' for everything!" And so people felt.

However, I do get to wondering about something that is often talked about. They always talk about Walmart not paying people enough, or not offering benefits. But please, do low-level clerks at mom-and-pops actually make any more, and are they any more likely to get benefits? This is aside from the real economic benefits of dealing locally (I ain't no fan of Walmart).
posted by Goofyy at 3:12 AM on November 16, 2005


goofy: if you're talking about a low-level-clerk contemporary realistic expectation of wage..well you're about right, there's no big difference in numbers..but even if $10 is $10 for anybody some are a lot happier when they receive $10 more then others who see $10 more as insignificant, both being clerks.

Mom & Pop store or medium-little sized store suffer from a number of limitations , but they're NOT necessarily defects..only limitations dictated by structure..for instance if Joe Clerks costs $100/week then they must obtain at least $120/week from his work..but as it comes from sales, it means they must charge the cost of Joe Clerk on product, therefore rising price.

If Walmart really can obtain a lot savings from their immense economies of scale and top-quality logistics one wonders why they can't or won't pay the clerk comparatively MORE then mom&pop store , after all they don't need to charge Joe Clerk on the sales volume of a little store.

But it's not in their model..their model of always low price bait (at marketing they know almost nothing is as seducing as low price and less expensive to conceive..much to disappointment of marketing guys themselves ) is made so that it's partially financed by keeeping low-cost employees expectations low and underfinanced, by offsetting some costs on taxpayers and some other by strongarm buying monopsony tactics, the core apparently being shipping production works offshore.

So while you are probably right when you say mom & pop wouldn't do better and wouldn't pay Joe Clerk much more one wonders why Walmart isn't doing better then them..and a LOT better then them...their alleged incredible efficiency and exploitation of technology and economies of scale etc is probably enriching very few pockets, but also at the expense of others and that's not good.
posted by elpapacito at 3:42 AM on November 16, 2005


Also while pumping money out of local economies, of course
posted by Goofyy at 6:18 AM on November 16, 2005


Lovers and Haters in Stoughton, Wisconsin saw it. One city council woman there says a Supercenter proposal there is ripping their small community apart.

Another viewer, a member of the local pro-Wal-Mart group said:

...the movie conveniently left out much of the story.

In the China footage, "you didn't see the Old Navy sweatshop right next door," he said.

"Wal-Mart has big problems but so do other companies," Rowlands said. "They're not presenting a fair and even picture."


Because other retailers have sweatshops? Kidding, right?
posted by badger_flammable at 7:16 AM on November 16, 2005


badger_flammable:

Actually, I think that there are a couple of serious weaknesses in Greenwald's film. It does leave out the fact that Wal-Mart is part of a larger problem, and the complete lack of any internal debate in the film leaves it open to claims that marginalize it. And the last segment is way, way too self-congratulatory about the anti-Wal-Mart movement. As a staunch W-M foe, I think it's a valuable contribution to the dialogue about Wal-Mart, putting a human face on the problems, but as a criticism it is seriously lacking.
posted by graymouser at 7:42 AM on November 16, 2005


[Wal-Mart] Management will be attending this screening [of "The High Cost Of Low Prices"], and if any Wal-Mart employee is seen by them attending any screening, we've been told that we will be fired.

This sounds like:

1) exactly the sort of crap some misguided mid-level Wal-Mart manager would be likely to pull, and

2) exactly the sort of thing that turns up as "False" on Snopes.com weeks later.

But it's not there right now. Are there any second sources for this?
posted by Western Infidels at 11:53 AM on November 16, 2005


I'm sorry but you can't eat at this lunch counter.

Note that having segregated lunch counters doesn't violate the constitution, it violates the Civil Rights Act. These kinds of things are illegal, yes, but they violate regular old laws, not the constitution.

Laws that require segregation violate the constitution because the government makes laws, and the government is bound by the constitution. Slavery violates the constitution because the state has laws and procedures and take action to support slavery. The state being bound by the constitution may not make such laws, have such procedures or take such actions.

I guess any rights and amendments do not apply to citizens as well? Can you keep black slaves in the US as long as it's a private company? I'm a bit confused.

The laws rights apply to citizens in that citizens have those rights with respect to the state. The state cannot violate those rights. Note that the US constitution says "Congress shall make no law..." not "Nobody better..." That means that the state cannot descriminate based on religion. HOwever the constitution allows individuals to discriminate based on religion. The Boy Scouts of America can require that everyone be theists because they are not the state and are therefore not bound by the constitution, for example. Of course there can be laws that ban such discrimination even by private parties, but those are regular laws, not the constitution.

As for slavery, were you to buy yourself a slave and keep them locked up in your basement, you would not be hauled before a court for violating the constition. You would be hauled before the court for violating criminal law. You can do all the unconstitutional things you want, so long as they're not against the law.
posted by duck at 12:25 PM on November 16, 2005


I'm going to go back and read on the comments, but while I have a chance, I'm scrolling to the end to invite anybody who'll be in the south loop in Chicago tonight to attend a free screening I'm putting on with some classmates and colleagues.
posted by jennyb at 12:40 PM on November 16, 2005


I didn't meant to hit post on that...was looking for a good link on the difference between a constitution and statuatory law for those of you who slept through grade 9. I couldn't find anything terribly useful, so I revert to the old stand-by of using a definition. Actually multiple definitions, which make the point tangentially..

Note "determining the fundamental political principles of the government" and "establishes the fundamental rules and principles by which an organisation is governed," "determine its government and procedures," "written or unwritten system of principles that describe the fundamental legal and political structures of a political state." Note also that no definition makes any reference to rules about what members of the state or organization can do. Consitutions deal strictly with how they are governed.
posted by duck at 12:41 PM on November 16, 2005


Slavery violates the constitution because the state has laws and procedures and take action to support slavery.

That is a bad example. Slavery directly violates the 13th Amendment, which states that slavery shall not exist in the US, period. Not that states can't have laws that allow slavery, or anything like that, but that slavery and involuntary servitude Shall. Not. Exist.

If I as a private citizen hold you in involuntary servitude, I am in direct defiance of the US Constitution, same as if I'd committed treason. I would be hauled in front of a court and convicted of an enforcing federal law, rather than the Constitution, but that's only because the 13th Amendment doesn't specify what penalty I get for enslaving you.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:21 PM on November 16, 2005


graymouser mentions Wake Up Wal-Mart in the original post, but I heard about the movie and the opportunity to host a screening through Wal-Mart Watch when I went to a forum on Wal-Mart at a local union hall.

Having been involved in local community activism and non-profit service providing endeavors in some way most of my life and in a much more in-depth way over the past couple years, I have to say that what impresses me most is Wal-Mart Watch's organization. They are always on time. They wear suits. They have quality equipment for presentations and they know how to use it. They have business cards. They return calls and emails quickly. It's amazing. If all activist groups were run like Wal-Mart Watch, so many things would be different in this country.

It's just refreshing for someone who's a little type A like me to encounter people in the activist community who have the ideology of a progressive, lefty type but the organization and the business demeanor of a corporate executive. I think that the success of this grassroots movement to get the movie out and bring discussion about Wal-Mart's business practices to the forefront is in many ways attributible to this. (And when I'm feeling really cynical, I wonder if Target is funding some of these anti-Wal-Mart groups.)

As for Wal-Mart being only one of many businesses who engage in shitty business practices, true. It's also one of the biggest, and getting people to recognize bad businesses practices here will help them recognize bad bussinesses practices elsewhere. And if these efforts end up successful, it will also encourage people to work together to hold corporations accountable. And that's all very good stuff!
posted by jennyb at 2:00 PM on November 16, 2005


If anyone's still around, they might want to look for a torrent.
posted by iamck at 5:30 PM on November 16, 2005


That is a bad example. Slavery directly violates the 13th Amendment, which states that slavery shall not exist in the US, period. Not that states can't have laws that allow slavery, or anything like that, but that slavery and involuntary servitude Shall. Not. Exist.

But slavery is the institution by which people are considered property. That's what makes the servitude involuntary. Property exists only with the recognition of the state -- if something is your property that just means the state will go to bat for you to protect whatever property rights you have over that something.

So to say "slavery and involuntary servitude shall not exist" is basically saying "The state will not recognize your right to human property." Saying slavery shall not exist is the same as saying that the state shall not recognize human beings to be property. There is nothing required or forbidden of the individual citizen here. That's just not what constitutions do.
posted by duck at 6:43 AM on November 17, 2005


« Older Bush in the bunker....  |  The US Fed wants the Yellowsto... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments