July 24, 2004

Statistical Differences, Discrimination, and Economics

Thomas Sowell's most recent columns about the Wal-Mart discrimination charges examine the underlying notion that statistical differences indicate discrimination.

Sowell does a bang up job of making complex issues easy to understand. This one is no different.

Here's just one nugget from part one.:

People without the slightest knowledge of economics or the slightest experience running a business will boldly assert that women are paid only 75 percent -- or some other percent -- of what men make for doing exactly the same work.
Think about it. If an employer could hire four women for the price of hiring three men, why would he ever hire men at all?
Even if the employer was the world's biggest sexist, he could still not survive in business if his competitors were getting one-third more output from their employees for the same money.

Interesting, considering that Wal-Mart is not just surviving, but thriving.

In part two., Sowell continues:

The sex discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart raises questions with implications that reach far beyond this one retail giant. Too many people in the media, in academia, and even in courts of law, act as if numbers plus a preconception equals proof. The preconception is that various groups -- by race, sex, or whatever -- would be evenly represented in occupations or institutions if it were not for discrimination.

Check out the full columns for a great read.

Posted by Brett at 1:36 AM

July 20, 2004

WM Sells Clothes Online--Again

Wal-Mart has figured out how to compete with low-cost competitors selling clothes online, and has decided to re-enter the market:

The world's largest retailer announced it will offer more than 15 apparel brands, including exclusive Wal-Mart brands such as George, Faded Glory and White Stag, at its walmart.com site.

Walmart.com spokeswoman Amy Colella said that the company pulled apparel from its online offering due to high order fulfillment costs back in 2001....

The company said customers who need to return apparel purchases can do so using the U.S. Postal Service or by returning it to a local Wal-Mart store.

Posted by Kevin at 11:34 AM

July 19, 2004

Holding to the Forecast

It's back to school in July for Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. maintained its July sales forecast Monday, saying the vital back-to-school shopping season was off to a good start.

On a recorded message updating sales through July 16, the world's biggest retailer said it still expects a 2 percent to 4 percent gain in July sales at its U.S. stores open at least a year.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart listed food, paper goods and pet supplies among the best-selling categories last week, and said price inflation was largely responsible for boosting its sales tally in paper goods.

That is, the quantity of goods sold did not have to increase much for sales to increase, if prices were up a few percent over previous years.

Posted by Kevin at 9:20 AM

July 17, 2004

Too Many Votes?

The Winnipeg Sun calls for a change in Manitoba's labor law, to prevent serial harrassment of companies by unions:

How often should a union be allowed to hold a certification vote at any one company? Once a year? Once every five years? Every six months?

It's a good question. And it's one that's particularly relevant in Thompson right now, where the United Food and Commercial Workers is taking its second stab in less than a year at organizing the city's Wal-Mart store.

Staff there opposed joining the union by a margin of 61-54 in an August, 2003 vote. But because there is no limit on how often a union can do a certification drive at a workplace, the union began a second drive right away and another vote was held June 4....

The UFCW's strategy is to carpet bomb Wal-Mart with endless certification votes until one day, hopefully, one of them hits the target.

Which is nothing short of corporate harassment and has nothing to do with looking out for the best interests of workers.

Posted by Kevin at 3:26 PM

July 15, 2004

Manitoba Update

The attempt at unionizing the Thompson store in Manitoba took a turn for the worse, as the labor board has agreed to hear WM's complaint that too many employees were excluded from voting in the election.

The votes from the latest Thompson vote won't be counted until the labour board hearing concludes on Aug. 6.

Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Groh said the company is happy with the board's position.

"We're pleased the board determined it's worth hearing the merits of our position," he said yesterday from Toronto. "The union's proposed bargaining unit fails to include too many of our associates to be valid."

Posted by Kevin at 10:46 AM

July 14, 2004

WM Leases to Sears

If you believe some critics, the decaying hulks of former Wal-Marts dot the landscape, lowering competition and marring the landscape. Some people contend that WM simply refuses to sell or lease their old spaces (regardless of the cost of doing so). The argument is simply preposterous, but the only way to convince some people is to show examples.

Well, here is one example of WM selling an old space to Sears:

Pekin-AP -- Wal-Mart officials say Sears, Roebuck and Company plans to take over the former Wal-Mart store in Pekin.
Wal-Mart Corporation spokeswoman Sharon Weber says the store is the only one in the state that will be taken over by Sears.

Wal-Mart's lease on the building extends until 2011. But Weber says the retailing giant will sublease the building to Sears.

The Pekin Wal-Mart closed in April, a day before a new 203-thousand square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter opened less than a mile away.

Sears spokesman Chris Brathwaite declined to confirm that the company plans to move into the store, located about ten miles south of Peoria.

Posted by Kevin at 1:02 PM

WM on Top of Fortune 500--Again

WM is the largest firm, but not the most profitable:

US retail titan Wal-Mart Stores Inc, with 1.5 million employees, topped the Fortune Global 500 biggest firms last year -- its third straight year -- and British Petroleum took second spot.

Wal-Mart spearheaded a pack of 189 American companies in the top 500, Fortune said on Monday. The discount chain's revenues increased 7 percent last year to US$263 billion and its workforce swelled by 100,000 people to 1.5 million employees.

But Wal-Mart's profits, which jumped 13 percent to US$9.1 billion last year, were not the largest.

Not counting MCI, the number 168 company, which emerged from bankruptcy with a "paper profit" of US$22.2 billion, Texas oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp was the most profitable with net profit of US$21.5 billion.

Citigroup Inc was second most profitable with US$17.9 billion.

Posted by Kevin at 12:56 PM

George

Wal-Mart has not hit the clothing industry as hard as entrenched suppliers and retailers thought. Although meeting internal targets, Wal-Mart's internal line of clothing is not flying off of shelves.

Created by George Davies, the former owner of a successful chain of British apparel stores, George was part of the Asda supermarket chain in the U.K. that Wal-Mart acquired in 1999. The sleek but inexpensive clothes for women and men helped bring Asda back from the brink of insolvency in the early 1990s. As it expanded into accessories, undergarments and trendier styles, it grew to become the second-biggest selling apparel brand in the U.K., behind only Marks & Spencer. To make George a successful global brand, the company must adapt to a more demanding production cycle.

Acknowledging that looks really do matter, Wal-Mart is rolling out new apparel displays, with brighter lighting, wooden floors, and special signs designating each brand. Don't expect to see flashy TV ads for George or any of Wal-Mart's private-label apparel. Wal-Mart still spends less than 1 percent of sales on advertising, which rarely focuses on anything but price, compared with 3 percent for Target Corp.

Posted by Kevin at 12:54 PM

July 12, 2004

A Peek Around the Blogosphere

Just took a quick peek around the blogosphere concerning things Wal-Mart and in short order found a blog post that had something new and particularly interesting regarding the class action lawsuit against.

Do not have enough time to do more right now, as I need to go eat lunch at the local soup kitchen while it is serving.

Check out this blog post on Kuro5hin (technology and culture, from the trenches) posted by hardcorejon today about:

Problems with Certifying Class Actions Using Statistical Evidence

That's all for today.

Posted by Morgan at 11:27 AM

Lawsuit Takes the Smiling Giant to Court Concerning WM Employees Who are Sexual Predators

*Updated*

This must-read article speaks for itself (here).

Monday, July 12, 2004
The State
Columbia, South Carolina

Suit says children unsafe at Wal-Mart

Few employees get background checks, lawyer says

By RICK BRUNDRETT
Staff Writer


Wal-Mart, the nation�s largest retailer, doesn�t do enough to protect children from store employees who are sexual predators, a local lawsuit contends.

Columbia lawyer David Massey said criminal background checks aren�t done on most Wal-Mart employees nationwide, even though the company has known about employees assaulting children.

Such checks are not required by law.

However, if a court agrees Wal-Mart has been negligent in protecting customers, particularly children, the company might be forced to change its policy on conducting background checks, Massey said.

�Wal-Mart has a cancer going on inside of it, and it�s the hiring of sexual predators,� Massey said during a recent Richland County court hearing.

He represents the family of a Richland County girl who authorities say was fondled in 2000 by a Wal-Mart employee in the electronics department of the Forest Drive supercenter in Columbia. The girl was 10 years old.

No criminal background check was done on the employee, a convicted sex offender who was listed on the state�s sex offender registry, according to a lawsuit filed in 2001 by the girl�s mother.

[...]

Read the entire article, here.

Okay, I'll share my two cents worth on the subject while I am at it.

This will most likely not be the last, nor I doubt the only such case, to be heard concerning such matters within big box stores like Wal-Mart (WM) either.

It would serve WM, along with their huge customer base, much better of course if they do a whole lot better and more than they are currently doing concerning both this particular case as well as the matter in general.

Why does there have to be a law to compel WM and other big box retailers to protect young and vulnerable customers from the likes of sexual predators whom may be in their employ or otherwise be applying for a job to work there?

Apparently, at least in some cases and if I understand things correctly, all they would have to do on a routine basis is to avail themselves of data already available to the public in those communities that have such provided by law regarding previously convicted sexual predators anyway, checking against both new applicants as well as current employees in their hire.

Is it really too much to ask or expect from a good corporate citizen?

WM should be leading the way on this on every level in a meaningful fashion.

This sort of behavior on WM's part simply undoes everything they try to sell the public about their well-crafted and heavily marketed smiley face, community and family friendly, image.

It is a brutal reality WM needs to both face and own up to concerning what should be their corporate responsibility with such matters.

One thing to think about as well is, just for a moment, imagine the shopping public's reaction to people of all ages standing out on the public way just outside the parking entrances to WM center holding up signs accusing WM of being woefully negligent as well as deliberately indifferent concerning the great risk of sexual assaults against children on its property by its employees.

Not a good or healthy image is it?

And that is not even the worst of it of course.

What could WM be thinking?

It just boggles the mind.

That is my opinion for what it is worth.

*Note*: Made several edits, mostly minor in nature, along with a few additions within my own comments for the purposes of clarification and readability: last updated on Monday, July 12, 2004 at 10:59 AM [EDT].

Posted by Morgan at 9:23 AM

July 11, 2004

In These Times: The ITT List

While surfing online for something on a totally different topic, having nothing whatsoever to do with Wal-Mart, I came across this item that in my opinion is certainly worth noting.

Am quoting it in full however, as it is not clear to me exactly how long it may remain on the In These Times The ITT List Web page: News and commentary written by In These Times editors and staff.

It was orginally posted there by Emily Udell, advertising director at In These Times:

The ITT List

The Women of Wal-Mart
July 7, 2004

Today Wal-Mart asked the San Francisco Federal Court of Appeals to review Judge Martin W. Jenkin�s ruling that a sex discrimination case against the monolithic corporation be considered a class action lawsuit. The class could include as many as 1.6 million employees�almost every woman who has worked for Wal-Mart since December 1996.

Wal-Mart�s reputed discrimination against women is an issue that even 1992�s Miss America Carolyn Sapp is behind.

The former beauty queen launched a Web site Wal-Mart versus Women to spread the word about the corporation�s gender discrimination. The site features news and ways to get involved in the issue. Who would�ve thought?

In a June 2nd article The Labor Research Association connects the discrimination to the fact that Wal-Mart�s labor force is not unionized. Cynthia Green writes, �Wal-Mart has denied all claims of gender discrimination, but the alleged infractions are of a piece with the company�s history of union bashing.�

And indeed union bashing is a priority for Wal-Mart, according to a recent article by Liza Featherstone in The Nation. Featherstone quotes a Wal-Mart manger�s handbook: �The entire management staff should fully comprehend and appreciate exactly what is expected of their individual efforts to meet the union free objective.... Unless each member of management is willing to spend the necessary time, effort, energy, and money, it will not be accomplished. The time involved is...365 days per year....� This is only one of many jaw-dropping tidbits from Featherstone�s piece.

The SF Court of Appeals has not commented on Wal-Mart�s request for a review yet, but hopefully this case will go forward as a class-action suit that can begin to chip away at the bad labor practices that have been institutionalized by the world�s largest employer.


Posted by Emily Udell

[...]

There is more on the same page, however nothing else on the page I came across at the time was related to Wal-Mart or the class action court case in question.

Posted by Morgan at 8:46 PM

July 6, 2004

Class Action? Third Aisle to the Left.

Here is a piece from Monday's Opinion Journal:


Last month a San Francisco federal judge ruled that a lawsuit by a handful of Wal-Mart female employees should be transformed into a massive class-action case on behalf of 1.6 million women who worked at Wal-Mart over the last eight years. In rendering his decision, Judge Martin Jenkins called the case "historic."

But critics of our civil justice system wouldn't call the case "historic" so much as sadly typical of the current state of U.S. employment law. The suit is based on individual cases that reveal little more than the frustrated ambitions of underperforming or unpopular workers, backed up by dubious statistical analysis and tortured logic that binds together contradictory arguments by the thinnest of threads.

The case began as individual claims, which the legal team, led by the trial firm Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll--specialists in suing big companies--has fought to elevate into class-action status in order to win a potentially big payday from Wal-Mart. To read the individual stories of the original plaintiffs of this lawsuit is to get a lesson in how employment law has been degraded to the point where aggrieved employees who have been disappointed in their careers regularly claim discrimination and sue--based on nothing more than the fact that they have not been promoted.


There is more in the Op/Ed. I have always found classaction lawsuits somewhat odd; how could people sue on behalf of others and receive damages without proving they were actually wronged? There was some legislation a couple of years ago for tort reform which would severely limited class action lawsuits, at least at the federal level. It may come as a surprise that this was opposed by business groups as well; it's cheaper to fight one case than potentially thousands. I wholeheartedly support such legislation, for it's one thing to write an article for a journal based on statistics, but entirely another thing to deprive a corporation of a billion of dollars if one could convince an ignorant jury to( I mean this in a nasty and cynical way; I don't care for the law profession and its practices. There are some interesting law profs out there who I read daily, but they seem to have escaped misery and an actual practice. I can only think of one practicing lawyer I know who's happy, the rest seem to be a miserable lot.)

Posted by Bob at 10:49 PM

WM & the Mennonites

A Mennonite ponders why his religous leaders are not objecting to the erection of a nearby Wal-Mart.

Where we Mennonites once reacted (and probably over-reacted) to the encroachment of �worldliness�, our ethical instincts seem to have been lulled to sleep by the mantras of economic growth and the promise of cheap stuff, even though the cultural consequence of Wal-Mart is probably far greater than the worldly forces we used to flee.

Posted by Kevin at 9:09 PM

July 3, 2004

Yet Another Take

*Updated*

In closing this three day blitz of posts blogged by me, many focused on the same topic, I will leave you with this article as additional food for thought on the subject.

Beware though, some of the language employed within the article is very much politically incorrect and, as such, may prove extremely offensive to certain people's tastes and principles; yet -- except for its great low prices, which almost everybody (yes, including myself) in this country seems to want -- so is Wal-Mart for that matter (where is that WM smiley face -- especially when you really need it -- anyway?).

The Men of Wal-Mart

These guys aren't misogynists. They're morons.
BY PETE KOTZ

pete.kotz@clevescene.com

[...]

If you buy the company line, feel free to dismiss such talk as hollow sniveling from disgruntled employees. But set aside some time, because you'll have to dismiss similar claims from more than 100 women in 30 states, a tally that mounts by the day.

In their class-action suit, they accuse Wal-Mart of systemically screwing female workers -- in wages, promotions, and all things in between. The stats back them up: Though women outnumber men four to one among hourly supervisors -- where wages are slightly above minimum wage -- they account for only 15 percent of store managers. The logical conclusion: Smiley Roll-Back is a Neanderthal punk.

[...]

The company's faced innumerable civil-rights suits, for everything from firing blacks who date whites to telling female employees that "God made Adam first, so women would always be second to men."

It's been raided by the feds for employing illegals, caught making people work off the clock, and found hiding and destroying documents in dozens of lawsuits nationwide. Bloomberg Markets discovered evidence that it pays spies to search and destroy union-friendly workers. And though Wal-Mart fancies itself as America's Store, last year it imported $15 billion in goods from China.

Its reputation is so bad that two out of every three new stores face opposition to construction. Perhaps that's because a typical location costs its host community $420,750 a year in medical, housing, and free-lunch subsidies that go to impoverished workers, according to a California legislator's report.

Given this record, it's tempting to consider Wal-Mart a low-rent Mafia. Yet these guys just keep getting caught. In truth, they're idiot savants, blessed with a crisp aptitude for numbers, but little else. Think of your dumb-ass brother-in-law who tries to rob a cop bar with a plastic squirt gun. He's too stupid to hate, but you'd love to smack some sense into him.

All of which makes it hard to buy the class-action suit. To do so, you must believe that morons systematically kept women schlepping shampoo and junior-miss skirts instead of running the show. This gives them too much credit. Beside, it's just a symptom.

Wal-Mart's true illness is not understanding the correlation between wage and quality. You buy poverty-level managers, you get poverty-level thinking -- the kind that quotes Adam and Eve in job reviews and takes its gender cues from the seventh century. If left untreated, it's an affliction that eventually proves fatal.

[...]

The entire article can be found here.

Until next time ...

*Note*: Added another paragraph of my own (in the lead) as well as several more excerpts from the article itself well worthy of note too: last updated on Saturday, July 3, 2004 at 4:16 PM [EDT].

Posted by Morgan at 3:47 PM

Wichita Eagle Editorial

Just came across this must-read editorial published in today's edition of the Wichita Eagle concisely makes the case in point, which have been illustrated in several previous blog postings of mine these last three days:

Wrong
EDITORIAL: WRONG

Wal-Mart's steamrolling success has made it the American company that Americans currently love to hate, even as they take advantage of its vast selection and cheap prices. So it's probably lucky that the court of public opinion isn't the venue for the lawsuit newly certified as a class action by a federal judge in California.

[...]

But the allegations against Wal-Mart mirror a broader problem, recently noted in a U.S. Census report as a "substantial gap in median earnings between men and women that is unexplained" even after accounting for work experience, education and occupation.

Three decades after feminists wore "59 cents" buttons to protest the wage gap, women overall still earn 74 percent of what men do, according to the census report. In high-earning jobs, women make 55 cents for every dollar earned by men. When it comes to securing equal pay for equal work, the progress has been too little and too slow.

So the value of such a lawsuit is bigger than this case, one of emboldening working women and spurring employers to purge gender discrimination from their own factory floors and office suites.

Through their stories and their willingness to tell them in court, the Wal-Mart women will be sending an essential message to other businesses: Discrimination against women in salary and promotion is wrong, and it's past time that it ceased.

Read the editorial in full (seven paragraphs), here.

Posted by Morgan at 3:28 PM

Wal-Mart Attempts to Change its Ill-Fashioned Image Falls Short

It appears that Wal-Mart's attempt to change its ill-fashioned image is falling short, though some within WM would have us believe otherwise.

Wal-Mart's fashion dilemma

By ANN ZIMMERMAN
The Associated Press
7/2/04 9:12 AM

and

SALLY BEATTY

The Wall Street Journal

Two years ago, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. set out to do what was once unthinkable: get serious about fashion.

The world's largest retailer -- known for being cheap but never chic -- had bulked up its fledgling product-design team and dispatched buyers and designers to Europe for inspiration. Most importantly, Wal-Mart announced it would roll out the contemporary apparel line George, which already had enjoyed a decade of success in the United Kingdom.

Stateside, nervous fashion retailers bristled. With apparel sales already stalled, the industry worried it would be the next victim of the so-called Wal-Mart effect. The Bentonville, Ark., retailing chain is known for dominating nearly every consumer product category it sets its sights on -- from toilet paper to toys -- forcing down prices and flattening competition along the way. As the largest seller of clothing basics, such as jeans, sweats and underwear, Wal-Mart sales already accounted for roughly 25 percent of the U.S. apparel market.

Four seasons out, George, which is targeted to women 30 to 50 years old, is hardly the megahit industry denizens feared. Although Wal-Mart insists sales of the George are ahead of plan this year, apparel suppliers, analysts and observers say sales have been far below what the fashion world was expecting.

"(George) is not flying off the shelves," says Marshal Cohen, senior analyst with NPD Group, a Port Washington, N.Y., market-research firm that tracks apparel sales.

[...]

One problem seems to be the fact that:

Not that the merchandise is drab or costly. Sharply-priced George offers Chanel-inspired tweed jackets and flouncy floral skirts, with most items less than $20. The problem, rather, appears to be with Wal-Mart's execution. In-store displays are small and often hard to find. Some feel it has suffered from a lack of advertising in a heavily promotional industry. Others perceive George as less a fashion collection than a gaggle of basics in better colors and fabrics.

"When you launch a fashion brand you should do it with 360-degree support in terms of how it is merchandised and placed in stores and you need to talk about it -- difficult issues for Wal-Mart," says Mandy Putnam, an analyst with Retail Forward, a marketing research and consulting firm based in Columbus, Ohio.

George's wobbly start raises the larger question of whether Wal-Mart's low-price, commodity approach is too restricting for a fashion brand. "Wal-Mart is really known for price," says Todd Slater, an analyst with Lazard, a New York investment bank. "But that is not the primary goal in buying fashion apparel."

[...]

Yet, still, one is left to wonder if other factors besides those mentioned in the above referenced article may be contributing to some shoppers habits, particularly among the population of momen shoppers that these fashion are targeted and geared to attract.

Maybe, as big as they are, they can manage to afford to stay both in denial and in business all at the same time.

Who knows?

Read the article in full, here.

Posted by Morgan at 3:14 PM

Behind the Scenes into a Class Action

*Updated*

Yet another must-read article concerning the class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart, this one taking an indepth behind the scenes look into the case and what has brought it about.

Wal-Mart's challenger used to lengthy battles

Class action: A Berkeley, Calif., lawyer relishes leading the biggest workplace discrimination case ever.

By David Streitfeld
Los Angeles Times

Originally published July 3, 2004

The conference room in Brad Seligman's Berkeley, Calif., law office is a forlorn place.

Its two windows look out onto walls. The table is scratched, the carpet dull. An air duct across the ceiling adds to the feeling of claustrophobia.

For three years, Seligman has been suing Wal-Mart Stores Inc., accusing it of discriminating against female employees. When the time came for the first big meeting with the company's well-heeled lawyers, he insisted it be done in this room.

"I wanted them to see we weren't about money, that this case wasn't just about money," Seligman says. "We brought it because Wal-Mart needs to change."

[...]

This is particularly interesting, in several ways:

[...]

The origin of the Wal-Mart case goes back a decade. That's when two New Mexico lawyers, Stephen Tinkler and Merit Bennett, took on a sexual harassment complaint involving two women at a local Sam's Club, a Wal-Mart subsidiary.

In 1997, the partners won a $2 million verdict. That produced a flood of new harassment lawsuits against Wal-Mart, but prevailing never became easy.

"Wal-Mart had unlimited resources. It would fight to the hilt," Bennett says. "Maybe we were naive."

Still, after years of litigation, the lawyers felt they had amassed a pile of useful evidence about the retailer's employment practices that suggested something deeper and more pervasive than harassment.

[...]

The bigger the class, "the heavier burden we have to convince a judge there is a common problem across the system," Seligman said. "Defendants always argue, as they did in this case, that each store is different."

Trying to prove they weren't was the role of Marc Bendick, an economist and consultant in Washington. Using Equal Employment Opportunity Commission data, Bendick put together a portrait of what the top 20 discount retailers' work forces looked like.

Women, he found, dominate retail - and not just at the cash register; K-Mart, J.C. Penney, Sears and other companies are run by management teams that are, on average, 56 percent female.

Then the lawyers took a close look at Wal-Mart's recent EEOC reports. No matter which way Bendick sliced it, Wal-Mart was different: Only 34 percent of its managers were women.

[...]

Read the entire article, here.

*Update*:

Additional information, concerning what is referenced with the above mentioned article, may be obtained directly from the official Wal-Mart Class Website [via Joe Hill Dispatch: Wal-Mart Beat -- ... journal of Walmart news, analysis and activism].

*Note*: last updated on July 3, 2004 at 2:48 PM [EDT].

Posted by Morgan at 2:24 PM

July 2, 2004

Bennington Cautiously Eyes Big Box Stores

This morning's edition(s) of Vermont's sister-newspapers Rutland Herald and Times Argus have reported that:

Bennington could set Vt. precedent for big stores

By PETER CRABTREE Herald Staff

BENNINGTON � Bennington could become the first Vermont town to require large retailers to prove they would not harm the community if they want a permit to do business.

The Planning Commission is about to ask the Select Board to approve a zoning bylaw that would require stores larger than 20,000 square feet to pay for an independent �community impact� study.

The proposed requirement, which was applauded at a public hearing Wednesday night, would be waived for downtown businesses.

�The rest of Vermont is watching very closely,� said Michael McDonough, a commission member. �I think you will see other communities follow our lead if we move in this direction.�

The Planning Commission also wants to make permanent an interim bylaw that caps big-box stores along the town�s commercial strip at 75,000 square feet.

[...]

Yet, that said, the fact remains:

The Select Board balked last year when the Planning Commission first suggested that retail stores larger than 38,000 square feet undergo economic impact studies.

The commission has responded by broadening the issues to be reviewed. The proposed bylaw calls for an evaluation of a project�s costs and benefits, including the effect on property tax revenues and the creation or loss of jobs in town.

Before a local permit could be issued, the Development Review Board would have to find that a retail project would not have an undue adverse impact on wages, housing costs or the town�s ability to provide services.

�The bottom line may end up to be the economic impact, but we�re also looking at infrastructure and schools,� said Barry Horst, chairman of the Planning Commission. �We want to see how it affects the entire community.�

Michael Bethel, a community activist, challenged the commission. Bethel said that while he was not an advocate of big box stores, he feared the proposal was too restrictive.

[...]

The last three paragraphs of the article explains that:

The commission expects to send the bylaw to the Select Board next week. The elected board, which has final approval, is likely to warn the bylaw for a public hearing later this summer, according to Monks.

The big box debate came alive last fall when an Albany, N.Y., developer sought but failed to win a zoning change to build a 170,000-square-foot store on the edge of downtown. McDonough urged citizens Wednesday to remain involved.

�The crime now would be for that public discussion not to continue to the final step,� he said.

For those seeking additional information concerning these matters, the Bennington Town Government page of the town's official Website includes pop up pages for both the Planning Commission and the Select Board as well as minutes of other government bodies of the town of course.

Also of interest is the Web page featuring Demographics of their town.

Posted by Morgan at 8:54 AM

Women Forcing Change in Wal-Mart Court Case

Published within the Forum/Opinion section section of today's edition of USA Today is a definitely must-read opinion piece written by Desda Moss, whom is a freelance writer living in Virginia.

Women in Wal-Mart suit forcing change

By Desda Moss

Sam Walton, the late founder of Wal-Mart, built his empire on a commitment to community, friendly service and low prices. The company also has provided jobs for thousands of Americans and is the world's largest private employer. But it now appears that some old-fashioned attitudes and an emphasis on low costs may have permeated its workplace practices.

[...]

According to the judge, the case is based on "largely uncontested" statistics that show women working at Wal-Mart are paid less than men in every region and in most job categories; that the gap widens over time (even for men and women hired into the same jobs at the same time); and that women take longer to enter management positions.

The case not only affects the female workers who claim discrimination, but it also could create a backlash among the women, many working-class, who shop at Wal-Mart and have fed its success.

[...]

In addition, she writes in her three closing paragraphs that:

[...]

The claims against Wal-Mart are not unique. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission handled 6,037 wage-discrimination filings in fiscal 2003. That number has been steady during the past decade.

But by taking on such a giant as Wal-Mart, these women are already forcing change. Though not acknowledging discrimination, Wal-Mart adopted a new job structure and pay classifications last month. Dozens of companies watching the case are reviewing their own pay scales and employment practices.

Whatever progress our nation makes in ensuring that workers receive equal pay for equal work, you can be sure it will come as a result of ordinary women taking extraordinary action. Women who do their jobs and speak out when they feel that they've been treated unfairly can change the way we do business.

Read it in full, here.

Posted by Morgan at 8:20 AM