Social Responsibility

A Better World, Fall 2003

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What's wrong with Wal-Mart?

By Theresa Flink

What's wrong with Wal-Mart? This is a question I often hear when I begin to discuss the problems associated with this giant retail corporation. Every time I hear this question, I think to myself,where do I begin!?

On the surface, Wal-Mart seems great. I mean, think about allthose seemingly wonderful commercials entitled, “Good Works”, where Wal-Mart would have you believe that their corporation gives to the needy, cares about people with disabilities, and is a friendly neighbor in your community. However, this couldn't be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is that Wal-Mart is one of the most greedy and corrupt corporations. In 2001 Wal-Mart was named on the top ten list of “corporations behaving badly” by the Multinational monitor which monitors working conditions, including, labor union and environmental issues in corporations worldwide. The following is a list of reasons, you won't see me shopping at Wal-Mart anytime soon.

Sweatshops and child labor:

Investigations have been conducted by religious and human rights organizations at sweatshops where Wal-Mart products and clothing are made. Consistently, these undercover investigations have found that workers in these factories are paid starvation wages and child labor is common. Furthermore, women are forced to take birth control and forced to have abortions if they get pregnant, and working conditions are deplorable and many times dangerous.

Union busting:

Wal-Mart is the largest corporation and private employer in the United States , with 1 million employees in the United States , and the Wal-Mart corporation does not want to give them a voice or collective bargaining powers. The company is notorious for union busting. In fact, managers are given manuals about how to stop union organizing in their stores. “Wal-Mart is opposed to unionization,” reads one such manual. “You, as a manager, are expected to support the company’s position. This may
mean walking a tightrope between legitimate campaigning and improper conduct.”

Wal-Mart Vs. Women:

In the summer of 2002, The National Organization for Women (NOW), as a
part of their “Women Friendly Workplace” campaign, named Wal-Mart a “Merchant of Shame” in response to the company's welldocumented
unfair labor practices. Currently men hold 90% of all Wal-Mart management positions, while 72% of the hourly associates are women who make $6.50/hr. or less. This places many female workers below the federal
poverty line, and, in fact, half of all Wal- Mart employees could qualify for assistance under the federal food stamp program. In addition, every six in tenWal-Mart workers cannot afford the company provided health
insurance. Due to this, a large number of women and children have no health coverage. Also, Wal-Mart health insurance does not cover contraceptives. There is currently a lawsuit regarding this in the state of
Georgia. Finally, class action lawsuits against Wal-Mart are taking place in many states due to sex discrimination such as: women being repeatedly
turned down for promotions, women being paid less in similar positions to men, and women being forced to work without pay in order to meet Wal-
Mart’s profit and productivity goals. Juries have awarded female Wal-Mart workers millions of dollars to date due to discrimination and harassment, and the lawsuits keep coming.

Environmental Degradation:

"Sprawl" is defined by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as
"poorly planned, lowdensity, auto-oriented development that spreads out from the center of communities." Al Norman, author of the book, Slam
Dunking Wal-Mart (1999) states that there are several problems
with Wal-Mart and other big box retailers including, potential
negative impact on water quality and aquifers and wildlife habitat.
In addition, such development creates high traffic volume (which affects air quality standards) and reduces the amount of green space in communities.

Sources:

the National Labor Committee: www.nlcnet.org,
Wal-mart Watch: www.walmartwatch.com,
Sprawl Busters: www.sprawl-busters.com,
Wal-Mart Vs. Women: www.walmartversuswomen. com,
http://www.now.org/nnt/fall-2003/walmart.html
www.walmartclass.com
Multinational Monitor:www.multinationalmonitor. com
www.walmartdayofaction. com

Take Action!

There is no reason that Wal-Mart, the largest, most profitable retail corporation in the United Sates cannot do the right thing! The following
are some possible ideas for getting involved and making a difference on this issue:

Help organize a local protest at a Wal-Mart in your hometown (be sure
to give out informational brochures to customers) The National Day of
Action against Wal-Mart is January 14, 2004.

Organize or participate in community groups that are working to keep Wal-
Mart, Sam's Club, and Wal-Mart Supercenters from locating in your
community.

Create petitions

Organize teach-ins on the topic

Write or Call Wal-Mart and tell them what you think!

Call Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., at 1-800-WALMART
To reach the home office, call 479-273-4000, Or mail your questions or comments regarding Wal-Mart stores to:

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Attn: Customer Service
702 S.W. 8th Street
Bentonville, AR 72716

Graduate News

Thomas Andrus-Graduated in 1998
Currently working as the Outreach Coordinator at St. Cloud State's American Indian Center.

Michael Birchard-Graduated in 2001
Currently working as an Academic Advisor for a TRIO program called Student Support Services at North Hennepin Community College

Fortunata Songora-Graduated in 2002
Currently a doctoral student in the Sociology Department at the University of Minnesota

Kerri Roesner-Graduated in 2002
Currently working as a Program Assistant in the Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention at Iowa State University.

POETRY FOR CHANGE

My Name is Not "Those People"
-Julia Dinsmore

My Name Is Not "Those People"
My name is not "Those People."
I am a loving woman, a mother in pain, giving birth
to the future, where my babies have the same chance
to thrive as anyone.

My name is not "Inadequate."
I did not make my husband leave - he chose to,
and chooses not to pay child support.
Truth is though, there isn't a job base for all
fathers to support their families.
While society turns its head, my children pay the
price.

My name is not "Problem and Case to Be Managed." I
am a capable human being and citizen, not a client.
The social service system can never replace the compassion
and concern of loving Grandparents, Aunts,
Uncles, Fathers,
Cousins, Community - all the bonded people who
need to be but are not present to bring children forward
to their potential.

My name is not "Lazy, Dependent Welfare Mother."
If the unwaged work of parenting, homemaking and
community building was factored into the Gross
National Product, my work would have untold value.
And I wonder why my middle-class sisters whose
husbands support them to raise their children are
glorified - and they don't get called lazy and dependent.

My name is not "Ignorant, Dumb or Uneducated." I
live with an income of $621 with $169 in food
stamps. Rent is $585. that leaves $36 a month to
live on. I am such a genius at surviving that I could
balance the state budget in an hour.

Never mind that there is a lack of living -wage jobs.
Never mind that it is impossible to be the sole emotional,
social and economic support to a family.
Never mind that parents are losing their children
to the gangs, drugs, stealing, prostitution, social
workers, kidnapping, the streets, the predator.
Forget about putting money into schools - just
build more prisons.

My name is not "Lay Down and Die Quietly."
My love is powerful and my urge to keep my children
alive will never stop. All children need homes
and people who love them. They need safety and
the chance to be the people they were born to be.

The wind will stop before I let my children become
a statistic. Before you give in to the urge to blame
me, the blame that lets us go blind and unknowing
into the isolation that disconnects us, take another
look. Don't go away.
For I am not the problem, but the solution.
And...My name is not "Those People."

Reprinted with permission by author. To order a wall hanging of this poem ($25) or Julia's music CD ($15), call (218) 525- 4268, e-mail KathrynRose58@aol.com or send check to:

Julia Dinsmore
5024 Tioga St.
Duluth, MN 55804

Julia is also available to speak and share her music.

Editors of A Better World
Theresa Flink
Becky Rothmeier

Feedback:
We would like to hear from you! If you would like to share any comments or story ideas, or if you have any questions...

Please contact us: tflinck@charter.net, b_rothmr@yahoo.com
Phone: 308-1045

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