August 24, 2004

A little privacy please

I don't really have much to say about this(via Drudge):

N.O. Man Says He Was Shot At In Wal-Mart Bathroom

UPDATED: 9:48 AM CDT August 24, 2004
NATCHITOCHES, La. -- A New Orleans man was wounded by gunfire in a botched holdup in a Natchitoches Wal-Mart restroom Sunday, police said.

Viator Tyndale, 48, told police that someone reached over the side of a stall and fired one shot into the floor, then demanded money. The gunman then moved to the front of the stall and fired two more rounds. Tyndale said he shoved the swinging stall door at the robber, who then fled the restroom.

Tyndale suffered a small cut on his hand from shoving the door.

A shopper in the store said he received a minor arm wound from what he believes is a round that exited the bathroom.

Lonnie Davis, of Natchitoches, was treated at the scene and declined further medical treatment.

The investigation is continuing.

Police are reviewing store surveillance video.

Posted by Bob at 2:05 PM

August 23, 2004

Getting Hitched at WM

A couple meets and falls in love at WM, and that's where they get married:

"It never dawned on me to have it anyplace else," said the 55-year-old bride.

Neither bride nor groom work at the discount store. Still, they spend more time there than many employees do, wandering the aisles and visiting friends for up to six hours a day, nearly every day since the store opened two years ago....

Both Pat Byrd and Bill Hughes are disabled. They met nine years ago, when Bill was a patient at a North Idaho hospital and so was Pat's sister...

They celebrated their blooming love with a ceremony Friday in Wal-Mart's garden center. The store manager was a groomsman, and a fabric department employee was matron of honor.

A garden center employee, Chuck Foruria, walked alongside Pat as she rode her motorized shopping cart down the makeshift aisle, her oxygen tank in the basket.

"Who gives this woman in marriage?" asked Stacey Garza of the Free Will Church.

"Her friends and family at Wal-Mart," Foruria replied.

Posted by Kevin at 1:20 PM

August 17, 2004

State of California Getting into the Act

On the heels of Los Angeles passing an ordinance to block supercenter stores, Democrats in the state capital now look to pass a law that would require an economic impact report:


Under SB 1056, superstores could not be approved by cities or counties before completion of an extensive economic impact report that would be bankrolled by the applicant.

The report would assess the supercenter's impact on other local stores, wages and benefits, demand for retail space, public revenues, provision of public services, traffic circulation and other issues.

As in the situation in Los Angeles, it won't be hard for opponents to find "victims" of the company.

Thanks to Daniel Weintraub at the Sacremento Bee

Posted by Bob at 7:14 PM

August 14, 2004

Appeal by Wal-Mart

New York Times
(here [free registration required])

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: August 14, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 13 (AP) - A federal appeals court agreed Friday to a request from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to hear an appeal of a San Francisco judge's order approving class-action status for a sex-discrimination lawsuit.

In a brief order, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit did not comment on the merits of the appeal, and did not say when it would hear it.

The suit contends that Wal-Mart set up a system that frequently pays female workers less than their male counterparts for comparable jobs and bypasses them for promotions.

Yet another news report, this one via Bloomberg News, as published in the Houston Chronicle: Wal-Mart class-action status to be reviewed.

Previous related post: Wal-Mart wants to declassify lawsuit.

Posted by Morgan at 10:13 AM

August 12, 2004

Shop the Vote: Wal-Mart = Bush. Costco = Kerry. Costco's Winning

An interesting commentary featured on Slate's Website, written by Daniel Gross, here.

Posted by Morgan at 9:11 AM

A new twist in the Wal-Mart wars

(Here's a follow-up to Bob's earlier post). Featured in today's Christian Science Monitor (here):

USA > Economy
from the August 12, 2004 edition

In a nod to small retailers, Los Angeles is planning to make it much harder for 'big box' stores to expand.

By Daniel B. Wood | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

LOS ANGELES � Proponents say it may become a national model for handling skirmishes over so-called "big box" stores moving into economically fragile communities.

Opponents call it another thinly veiled attempt by pro-labor legislators to stand in the way of stores like Wal-Mart and Costco, fearing the stores' low wages and low costs.

Still others see the new ordinance, given initial approval this week by the Los Angeles City Council, as more evidence of a deadlock between America's largest employer, Wal-Mart, and its largest state, California, over the store's future and its policies.

The ordinance, voted on Wednesday, says simply that developers of superstores (those over 100,000 square feet) must do cost/benefit analyses to assess their economic impacts. Beyond the current practice of "conditional use" permits - which hinge on parking, land, and pollution impacts - applicants would have to assess a new list of controversial concerns, using approved but independent consultants.

[...]

Read the entire article, here.

Posted by Morgan at 8:57 AM

Wal-Mart to Require Background Checks

From ABCNews (here):

Wal-Mart Requiring Background Checks for New Workers to Look for Criminal Offenses

The Associated Press


BENTONVILLE, Ark. Aug. 12, 2004 � Background checks will be required for all new store associates to check for criminal offenses before they are hired under a plan released Thursday by Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

[...]

Wal-Mart announced the plan in a news release, saying the program would start in Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores in the Midwest in September and expand nationally over the next several months. It will check each applicant's history for various criminal offenses.

Wal-Mart said it is company policy that anyone who lies on the application will not be hired. The program follows a year of pilot programs nationwide and will be expanded to other Wal-Mart divisions in the future, the release said.

[...]

Read the article in full, here.

From the Wal-Mart press release:

Wal-Mart Instituting Pre-hire Background Check Program For All Store Positions

August 11, 2004
Screening Program to Help Preserve Associate Integrit

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Aug. 12, 2004 � Wal-Mart will take a new leadership role within the retail industry by requiring background checks of all new store associates prior to hire under a program announced today and scheduled to begin in September. The retailer will initiate the program in the Midwest and roll it out nationally over the next several months.

[...]

Wal-Mart�s program follows a year of pilot programs around the country.

As allowed by local laws, the background check program will review applicants� backgrounds for various criminal offenses. Applicants will not be considered for any position if they are found to have lied on their applications, which is the policy at Wal-Mart.

SAM�S CLUB will also launch a background check process for its associates in September. Wal-Mart will expand the applicant background program to other divisions in the near future.

[...]

Read the entire press release, here.

Posted by Morgan at 8:44 AM

August 11, 2004

Wal-Mart wants to declassify lawsuit

CNN Special, FindLaw column by Anthony J. Sebok about Wal-Mart's attempt to head off the enormous class action lawsuit they are now faced with:

[...]

Last week, Wal-Mart petitioned the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, asking it to step in and decertify the case. It is highly usual for an appellate court to get involved in a lawsuit before there is a final judgment in a trial. But Wal-Mart will try to persuade the Ninth Circuit that Dukes is a very unusual case, and that is why the class action should be stopped before it goes too far.

There are two reasons why the Dukes suit is indeed unusual -- but neither justifies the Ninth Circuit's stepping in and stopping the case.

[...]

Read the column in full, here.

Posted by Morgan at 6:37 PM

Wal-Mart Targets DC

WM is set to invade DC:

The store would be a conventional Wal-Mart, not one of its supercenters -- the 145,000- to 210,000-square-foot stores that include full grocery operations and thus compete directly with unionized supermarkets like Giant and Safeway....

A store in the District would be the latest step in Wal-Mart's expansion into America's cities, which had largely been passed over in the company's remarkable growth from a small chain in Arkansas to an international retail behemoth. Urban locations, with their expensive real estate, complicated zoning restrictions and often strong labor unions, have been one of Wal-Mart's last frontiers as it seeks an ever larger share of America's shopping dollars....

Until four years ago, the 23-acre Brentwood site was a derelict lot for impounded cars surrounded largely by townhouses and apartment buildings inhabited by middle-class and poor residents. City officials cited its development into a bustling retail center as one of their top achievements in the pursuit of retail in the District. Its Home Depot draws shoppers from all parts of the District and from nearby Prince George's County, according to city officials....

"The community does not want a Wal-Mart," said Dominic Moulden, executive director of Manna Community Development Corp., who called the company's business model "immoral." The outfit was part of the development team on the site but backed out earlier this summer when it learned discussions were underway with Wal-Mart.

Manna, a nonprofit group that works to develop long-depressed D.C. neighborhoods, is worried that a Wal-Mart would drag down wages in the neighborhood and drive smaller, locally owned stores out of business. "We think it's wiser to hold out for a better company," Moulden said.

For unions, the arrival of Wal-Mart in the District could have a symbolic as well as practical impact. The District-based United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents grocery workers, has blamed Wal-Mart for the loss of thousands of member jobs.

"This is not an employer you want anywhere, particularly in the nation's capital," said C. James Lowthers, president of the union's Washington area chapter.

Posted by Kevin at 4:09 PM

August 10, 2004

L.A. Targets Wal-Mart

Los Angeles City Council looking for ways to block Wal-Mart from opening superstores:


The Los Angeles City Council today approved, in concept, a law that will make it harder for Wal-Mart to erect Superstores in the city by requiring them to show whether surrounding communities will be harmed by the addition of the mammoth stores.

Under the ordinance, which faces another vote Wednesday, retailers larger than 100,000 square feet that devote more than 10% of their sales floor to food and other non-taxable items will have to pay for an economic analysis to forecast whether a proposed development will eliminate jobs, depress wages or harm neighborhood businesses.

This law would basically block any new stores since Wal-Mart isn't going to cave into unions. I couldn't find the exact language of the "concept" on the website(they didn't pass an actual ordinance yet), but it would be a fair guess that this is a fairly open question as to whether a superstore actually harms a community.

Posted by Bob at 10:50 PM

August 7, 2004

Satanic Wally

Via Fark:

wally.jpg

Posted by Kevin at 4:05 PM

August 6, 2004

Manitoba WM Employees Reject Union, Again

The Basics:

Workers at the Thompson store voted June 4. Results of the vote were released Friday by the Manitoba Labour Board.

It's the second time the Manitoba employees have voted on the issue. Last August, they voted 61 to 54 against representation by the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW).

Wal-Mart and the UFCW have engaged in a heated battle over the years. Union officials have accused the company of convincing employees to vote against the union.

The company issued a statement after the Manitoba board released the results: "Wal-Mart was extremely limited in its communication to its own associations about the issue of unionization throughout the union's lengthy and aggressive organizing."

More advanced--including the usual love by Union reps:
Wal-Mart employees in Thompson, Man., have rejected union representation, just days after a Quebec board certified the only unionized Wal-Mart in North America. The results of the June 4 vote, released Friday, were 67 to 44 against unionization. A total of 130 employees were eligible to vote.

"This is significant and a major victory for democracy," said Andrew Pelletier, a spokesman for Wal-Mart Canada, headquartered in Mississauga, Ont.

It's the second time in less than a year that workers in Thompson, about 720 kilometres north of Winnipeg, have turned down a chance to be represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). Workers also rejected union representation in a vote held in June 2003.

Pelletier noted that the latest margin was considerably higher than the previous seven-vote edge. He said that was particularly significant given Manitoba's labour laws, which he said give unions more latitude than companies in terms of what they can tell employees.

"It also shows that pretty well any time our employees have been given a chance to vote in a secret ballot, they vote against the union," Pelletier said.

In a release, union local president Robert Ziegler said he was disappointed but not surprised by the results.

"Every Wal-Mart associate knows that (voting for a union) will prompt management to unleash so many subtle - and some not-so-subtle - 'threats' that they'll regret their decision."

UPDATE:More union love:
But it won't stop the Winnipeg-based union from trying again, said president Robert Ziegler.... "I would have to say we're disappointed, but there is still 40% of our membership who voted in favour of a union," said Ziegler, adding another organizing drive would occur in six months....

There was one spoiled ballot and 26 workers didn't vote in the most recent vote.

Ziegler said the closing of a day-care centre after employees voted to unionize two weeks prior to the Wal-Mart vote may have been a factor in the rejection. The outcome also may have been different had the vote not been held on a Friday afternoon, he said.

In other words, if you make life difficult for Wal-Mart, WM returns the favor. Why do these people expect Wal-Mart to cave in when they're so abusive of the company's image and character?

Posted by Kevin at 8:42 PM

More on Jonquiere

It seems that the labor board that certified the UFCW to speak on behalf of WM workers in Jonquiere ignored the wishes of a majority of workers in that store, if voting counts for anything:

"It's important to note that this automatic certification comes just four months after the employees voted against this union in a democratic, secret-ballot vote," Andrew Pelletier, spokesman for Wal-Mart Canada, said.

Under Quebec law, unions can be certified without an affirmative vote from the pertinent workers, if they file enough union cards to claim they "represent a majority" of workers.

So much for due process in employer rights. Why do they even bother with the vote? Also note the utter ignorance and hatred of the union folk:
But Denier alleges that Wal-Mart is really just dedicated to stopping workers from unionizing. "In the United States, Wal-Mart depends on their ability to coerce, intimidate, threaten and fire people in order to stop workers from having a voice," he asserted.

He also decried the "Wal-Martization" of the world.

Wal-Mart is, according to Denier, "systematically lowering living standards for workers around the world, stepping on the rights of other businesses and bulldozing whole communities."

Denier also referred to the World War II era in explaining why he thought a corporation would be opposed to its employees forming a union. "I think you would have to be a Nazi" to believe workers don't have the right to organize, he said.

Dan Swinney, executive director of the Center for Labor and Community Research, accused Wal-Mart of being the "poster child" for "low road" business practices.

Wal-Mart uses "predatory, destructive business practices in the pursuit of securing high returns in a very short period of time," Swinney alleged....

"Wal-Mart has a well-documented history ... both domestically and internationally of really driving down and destroying communities," said Swinney, who wants all Wal-Mart stores unionized....

Wal-Mart offers medical coverage to 100 percent of its associates, even if they only work part-time and said it is the "exact same medical plan our CEO is on." That coverage, she said, is extended to family members if the associate is a full-time worker.

Posted by Kevin at 9:55 AM

August 4, 2004

Berkeley Study on Government Payouts to WM Employees

You might have read that Wal-Mart employees are given $86 million a year by the California State government, allegedly to support employees given too-low wages. Most news reports, like this from Reuters, are just slimmed down versions of the Berkeley press release about the study:

UC Berkeley study estimates Wal-Mart employment policies cost California taxpayers $86 million a year

By Kathleen Maclay, Media Relations | 02 August 2004

BERKELEY � Employment policies at Wal-Mart, the nation's largest employer, cost California taxpayers approximately $86 million a year in public assistance to company workers, according to a University of California, Berkeley, study released today (Monday, Aug. 2).

The study indicates that Wal-Mart workers in California rely on the state for about $32 million annually in health-related services, and $54 million a year in other assistance such as subsidized school lunches, food stamps and subsidized housing.

"When workers do not earn enough to support themselves and their families through their own jobs, they rely on public safety net programs to make ends meet," said the report by Arindrajit Dube of UC Berkeley's Institute for Industrial Relations, and Ken Jacobs of the campus's Center for Labor Research and Education.

The researchers said they conservatively estimate that the approximately 44,000 workers at 143 Wal-Mart and its sister Sam's Club stores in California earn about 31 percent less than workers in large retail as a whole, and that 23 percent fewer Wal-Mart/Sam's Club workers generally are covered by employer-sponsored health insurance than workers in large retail.

There is an array of reasons for the low rates of coverage, said the researchers. They include higher employee turnover, eligibility issues, employee costs for health plans and plan quality.

In the end, Wal-Mart essentially "is shifting part of its labor costs onto the public," the report said.

To determine Wal-Mart's costs for taxpayers between March 2001 and March 2002, Dube and Jacobs relied on a variety of sources. They examined Wal-Mart's compensation policies, and wage data for part-time and full-time Wal-Mart workers contained in public testimony in a sex-discrimination case against the company. Then they worked with a statistical model of public assistance use based on wages, employer-based health coverage and demographic details such as age, race, gender and family size.

Dube and Jacobs warn that the drain on the Golden State's public assistance coffers could intensify as Wal-Mart follows through on plans to open 40 new "super centers" with combined retail and grocery operations around California over the next five years. So far, the company's only California super center is in Palm Springs.

"California and the West are among Wal-Mart's new frontiers," said Dube in an interview.

Meanwhile, the researchers cited efforts by other big California retailers, especially grocery chains, to reduce their workers' wages and benefits closer to those provided by Wal-Mart. "As the country's largest employer, (Wal-Mart) has become the standard setter," their report said.

If other big California retailers apply the Wal-Mart model to their 750,000 employees, Dube and Jacobs estimate taxpayer support to retail workers will increase by $410 million a year, for a grand total of $1.46 billion.

In just a few weeks, a contract expires for 30,000 San Francisco Bay Area grocery clerks. The contract for another 15,000 Sacramento area grocery clerks was due to expire last month, but has been extended while negotiations continue. Wages and benefits for new hires are expected to be central issues in those talks.

And on Wednesday (Aug. 4), the Los Angeles City Council will hold a hearing on legislation that would make approval of a big box store depend on the city government's evaluation of its economic impact. This legislation follows the rejection of a Wal-Mart ballot initiative in Inglewood, Calif., that would have skirted the planning process for a proposed superstore.

The complete Wal-Mart report is online.

. Indeed the complete report, written by Arindrajit Dube and Ken Jabobs was published by the UC Berkeley Labor Center on August 2, 2004. See also their reply to criticisms made by Wal-Mart.

I haven't had time to read the report, so I cannot discuss particulars.

Posted by Kevin at 10:57 AM

August 3, 2004

Union for Jonquiere, Quebec WM

For all you Americans, this is not the Manitoba store I've been writing about:

Workers at a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT.N: Quote, Profile, Research) outlet in the Canadian province of Quebec have been granted permission to form a union, which would be the first in North America for the big retailer.

In a decision dated Aug. 2, the Quebec labor relations board said it accredited Local 503 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union to represent the roughly 170 workers at the Wal-Mart store in Jonquiere, a city about 220 kilometers (137 miles) north of Quebec City.

Doubtless, Wal-Mart will appeal.

Posted by Kevin at 1:26 PM