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Walmart, an Evil Empire!

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Is Wal-Mart an evil empire?
Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the world, the biggest private-sector employer in North America, and one of the most dominant and influential corporations in the America. It has become one of America's most successful retail chains by offering everyday goods at low prices for working families, and despite all of its financial successes, the company can’t open a store without enduring -- and overcoming -- a flood of protest groups. These groups might defend the environment or local store owners, or they might defend the store’s future employees, since Wal-Mart’s reputation for unfair labor practices involves sexual discrimination, denying unionization and offering wages so terrible that some employees have to rely on social services to get by. Although Wal-Mart portrays an image of servitude and charity to the community, this multi-million corporation is responsible for inhumane, unjust and shameful practices in the United States and abroad, and whether people Love it or hate it, Wal-Mart is, in many places and for many people, inescapable. Much like work and taxes and eventual death.
There is no question that Wal-Mart's relentless drive to squeeze out costs has benefited consumers, but Some experts contend Wal-Mart's "everyday low prices" are causing a clash between the interests of Americans as workers and the desires of Americans as consumers.

"If people were only consumers, buying things at lower prices would be just good. But people also are workers who need to earn a decent standard of living," says economist Larry Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute during an interview for Frontline. "The dynamics that create lower prices at Wal-Mart and other places are also undercutting the ability of many, many workers to earn decent wages and benefits and have a stable life." In Bangladesh women and children are forced to work about 14 hours a day, often seven days a week for wages as low as around13 cents an hour. These extremely low wages just keep the women and children right on the poverty line, and leave them no way to get above it. In the U.S, Wal-Mart's impact on wages was first felt in rural towns in the South and Midwest where Wal-Mart got its start. Often, it became the biggest employer overnight, setting wage rates for all retailers, experts say. Now, its impact on retail employment has spread nationwide, contributing to slower wage growth throughout the sector. According to the United Commercial Food Worker union, Wal-Mart workers make an average of $3 per hour less than unionized supermarket workers. In recent years, Wal-Mart has doubled down on its strategy of suppressing wages and benefits to stay competitive ( Spencer). Moreover, many of Wal-Mart employees work part-time since the company defines “full-time” as twenty-eight hours per week allowing the corporation to pay for as few benefits as possible, and with the minimum wages they get, many—too many—are on food stamps and other government assistance. So, minimum wages and minimum benefits: that’s the way Wal-Mart stays ultra-competitive. (Quinn 42)
With over 2million employees worldwide, Wal-Mart has faced a torrent of lawsuits and issues with regards to the company's strong anti-union policies. Back in the day, Sam Walton said he wouldn’t be intimidated by unions, ever, under any circumstances(Ortega 79). And today, not a single U.S. store is unionized. Wal-Mart's anti-union policies also extend beyond the United States. The documentary Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, shows one successful unionization of a Wal-Mart store in Jonquiere, Quebec (Canada) in 2004, but Wal-Mart closed the store five months later because the company did not approve of the new "business plan" a union would require (Bianco). Wal-Mart states that it is not anti-union but, "pro-associate," arguing that its employees do not need to pay third parties to discuss problems with management as the company's open-door policy enables employees to lodge complaints and submit suggestions all the way up the corporate ladder and claims that their employees don’t want anything to do with the union. However, In 2000, meat cutters in Jacksonville, Texas voted to unionize and Wal-Mart subsequently eliminated in-house meat-cutting jobs in favor of prepackaged meats on the claims that it cut costs and was a preventive measure to lawsuits. In addition, managers are taught to profile individuals who appear to have abilities to organize unions or sympathize with the idea and to fire them.
The giant retailer's low prices for the customers often come with a high cost to the suppliers. Being the large customer to most of its vendors, Wal-Mart openly uses its bargaining power to bring merchandise prices down. For certain basic products, Wal-Mart "has a clear policy" that prices go down from year to year. This relentless pressure made vendors lay off their employees, close U.S factories, and shift manufacturing jobs to China and other nations, where the cost of labor is less expensive. “ Wal-Mart has the power to squeeze profit killing concessions from suppliers, many of whom are willing to do almost anything to keep the retailer happy, in part because Wal-Mart now dominates consumer market so thoroughly that they have no choice.”, says Fishman(89). Wal-Mart defends aggressively its own business practices by pointing out the number of jobs it creates, but the real question is: does the new opening of new stores across the country really increase the number of jobs, or does it just increase the number of Wal-Mart jobs? While Wal-Mart was adding 480,000 jobs between 1997 and 2004, U.S. manufacturing jobs during those years fell by 3.1 million jobs. During the same period, Wal-Mart’s import of inexpensive products from China alone increased 200 percent.(Fishman 108). It is clear that while Wal-Mart was creating new retail jobs for itself, it was taking away from the creation of manufacturing jobs.
Wal-Mart is responsible for the disintegration of many independent “mom-and-pop shops” in small towns. Their lower prices draw customers away from other smaller businesses, hurting the community. Many of these businesses had run successfully for decades before Wal-Mart arrived. Having eliminated all other competition, Wal-Mart makes the community dependent on its business while making downtowns virtually ghost towns and creating high rates of unemployment. A research, done by a Northwest community group, estimates that one Wal-Mart store, which is set to open in a Washington neighborhood, will decrease the community's economic output over 20 years by an estimated $13 million. It also estimates the Wal-Mart will cost the community an additional $14 million in lost wages over the next 20 years. "When Wal-Mart comes to town, it is going to reallocate sales and its impact is going to be a function of the difference between what is currently being paid in wages at the existing stores and what Wal-Mart pays," Christopher Fowler, who conducted the research for Puget Sound Sage, said. Nearly 90 percent of the country's population lives within 15 miles of a Wal-Mart, and two-thirds of all retail stores are located within five miles of a Wal-Mart. About five of every six Americans shopped at a Wal-Mart in 2005. These numbers prove how powerful and influential this corporation has gotten and how tremendous the amount of damage it has caused and will continue to the communities and to the local traditions all over the world.
Another Wal-Mart’s questionable business practices is gender discrimination, child labor abuse, use of undocumented workers and poor working conditions of its employees. All these accusations turned out to be true in a court of a law. Wal-Mart’s managers force employees to punch out and keep working in order for them to control their labor budget. Fishman explains it better , ”what better way to keep personnel costs under control than to insist that hourly associate haven’t gotten their assigned job done in the allotted time and then force them to finish that job off the clock.”( 227).Wal-Mart is currently involved in the largest class action employment lawsuit in the U.S history. The gender discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart started with six women in California. As the case progressed, over 1 million women stepped forward to reveal they were overlooked for promotions, spoken to by superiors inappropriately, asked to “doll up” or dress better, and treated as second-class employees. The case is currently pending in the Supreme court and Wal-Mart could face a possible payout of tens of billions of dollars. Wal-Mart’s executives were charged of labor racketeering crimes for knowingly allowing undocumented immigrants to work at their stores. The workers themselves were employed by agencies Wal-Mart contracted with for cleaning services and the executives had full knowledge that these workers were undocumented. There have also been reports of teenagers in Bangladesh working in sweatshops 80 hours per week at $0.14 per hour, for Wal-Mart supplier Beximco, not to mention the use of sweatshops and prison labor overseas in order for Wal-Mart to keep its prices low and its profit margin higher. Wal-Mart is not just a store or a company, it is also a mirror. It mirrors the American society, its energy, its values and its appetite for bigness and variety. It is a part of the U.S. culture and to some, it is a necessary evil, that is here to stay.

Mohibi 7
Works cited
Bianco, Anthony. "No Union Please, We're Wal-Mart." Bloomberg Buisnessweek [New York] 13 Feb. 2006. Print.
"Criticism of Walmart." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 05 Sept. 2012. Web. 09 May 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Walmart>.
Larry Mishel, "U.S. Trade with China: Expectations vs. Reality." Interview. Frontline. Pbs. 16 Nov. 2004. Television.
Ortega, Bob. “ In Sam We Trust: The Untold Story of Sam Walton, and How Wal-Mart Is Devouring America. New York: Times Business, 1998. Print.
Quinn, Bill. How Wal-Mart Is Destroying America. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed, 2000. Print.
The High Cost of Low Prices. Dir. Robert Greenwald. Brave New Films, 4 Nov. 2004. Web.
Woodman, Spencer. "Labor takes Aim at Wal-Mart--- Again." Nation 294.4 (1/23/2012): 20-23. Print.

Read more at Suite101: Walmart - The High Cost of Low Prices: A Summary and Review of Robert Greenwald's Film | Suite101.com http://aleksandra-sekinger.suite101.com/walmart-the-high-cost-of-low-prices-a188059#ixzz1u9ZgMcyr

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_07/b3971115.htm
http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/2405-real-cost-walmart.html…...

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