Friday, November 11, 2005

Three Jeers for Wal-Mart

The Sun, as part of its continuing campaign to promote Wal-Mart, publishes an op-ed by Richard Vedder and Bryan O’Keefe of the American Enterprise Institute today giving “three cheers” to Wal-Mart. According to their research of 25 towns with supercenters, the retailer benefits consumers and does not negatively effect employment levels or wages. Based on their conclusion and those of other unnamed academics, the authors say that the only people really against Wal-Mart are the unions that stand to lose membership.

We have responded to many of these arguments before but there are a few things that need to be made clear. First, despite the authors’ claims, a number of economic reports also conclude the opposite in terms of employment and wages, not to mention Wal-Mart’s burden on tax-payer funded programs. Second, the supposition that Wal-Mart workers simply do not want unions and are perfectly happy with their wages, benefits and treatment is outrageously inaccurate. As the overtime lawsuits, discrimination suits, union-busting charges, and Robert Greenwald’s documentary show, not only are there many disgruntled associates but when they do try to form a union to remedy their situation it is aggressively attacked with propaganda, and both implied and explicit threats. Thirdly, though Vedder and O’Keefe list a bunch of reasons for opposing Wal-Mart in the beginning of the article they choose to only focus on labor. They never mention those who oppose Wal-Mart due to its impact on traffic, crime and quality of life. They never address the environmental concerns or the issue of China.

We suggest that the think tank researchers visit Tottenville in Staten Island before publishing their next piece. Perhaps after talking with civic leaders, environmental experts, parents, and small business owners they will learn that perhaps what’s good for Wal-Mart isn’t good for our communities.