Wal-Mart Wants Your Job

South St. Paul’s labor activists’ smiles are turning upside
down, with the announcement of a new Wal-Mart opening up in St.
Paul’s Midway Shopping Center. The store will be the first
manifestation of the mammoth chain in the Twin Cities, and will
start peddling its wares come May, despite the protests of local
union members pointing posters towards passersby that ask, ‘What
Cost to Neighborhoods?’

What beef could resisters have with the retailing empire, its
All-American image radiating from packed shelves of toothpaste, dog
food, and ammunition? Unlike the meat that unionophobic Wal-mart
resorted to once its meat-cutters began to organize, the
protesters’ beef is not pre-packaged. They wave signs in defense of
the employee wages and benefits that will be lost once Wal-Mart
business practices force local retailers to lower the bar on
prices, and therefore on employee benefits. To uphold its
smiley-faced promise of bottom-line prices, Wal-Mart ‘is driving
manufacturers to open plants overseas and causing competing
retailers to cut employee wages and benefits.’ For instance,
Minnesota-based Target Corporation, in relentless pursuit of prices
that would mimic Wal-Mart’s, recently eliminated paid vacation and
health care coverage for employees who work less than 20 hours a
week.

But poor labor conditions make up only one of the many tolls
taken by Wal-Mart’s promise of the lowest prices available. The
company has recently been confronted by dozens of complaints of
sexual discrimination. According to figures compiled by WalMart, 72
percent of the company’s employees are female, while two-thirds of
management positions are held by males. Female employees make an
average of 34 cents less per hour for doing identical jobs. And
that’s not to mention the 250 illegal immigrants federal agents
found in Wal-Mart stores last October, working for as little as $2
a day.

So, what is Wal-Mart’s smirking symbol smiling about? Well, good
bargains. But as Stacy Mitchell, researcher for the Institute for
Local Self-Reliance comments, ‘There is a tremendous price we pay
for every penny we spend at Wal-Mart.’
Andi McDaniel

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Wal-Mart Wants Your Job

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