August 16, 2005

Jihad of the Left against Wal-Mart?

Phillip Mella, Mayor Pro Tem of Woodland, Colorado, says,

The irony of the jihad against Wal-Mart by liberal activists and their brethren in the labor unions is that if they're successful in leveraging higher wages and benefits for workers it will be on the backs of the lower class, their natural constituency, who will be obliged to pay higher prices ("Labor Tries Political Tack Against Wal-Mart," Business column, Aug. 10).

As a city councilman I recently spent several months fighting a small but vociferous group of zealots bent upon stopping Wal-Mart from building in town. This latest movement against a highly successful corporation is driven by the same brand of anticapitalist ideologues who are determined to rekindle the failed socialist ideals that were in fashion in the 1930s. The complaint that Wal-Mart doesn't reward its workers is a tiresome canard. The average hourly wage for new workers is $9.13, which, in our town, is about 25% higher than average entry-level retail wages. Further, Wal-Mart offers reasonably priced, basic health care to all employees.

More critically, Wal-Mart provides entry-level work for relatively low-skilled individuals who might otherwise never get the chance to demonstrate skills that are crucial to moving up the employment ladder.
Is it any wonder that nearly 70% of Wal-Mart managers began as front-line workers?

This effort is, indeed, "the last gasp of a dying labor movement," because, not unlike the Democratic Party in the last election, they have fundamentally misread the mainstream Americans who pack Wal-Mart stores each week because the company offers them and their families real value for their hard-earned money.
In contrast to these elitist social engineers, consumers understand the core American values of free enterprise and choice in the marketplace.

This was in a letter to the Wall Street Journal ($); it is the sixth letter down in the list. Thanks to Phil Miller for the information.

Posted by TheEclecticEconoclast at 5:48 PM

June 16, 2005

Dems Taking Wal-Mart Money

Sure, Wal-Mart PAC gives mostly to Republicans, but it also gives strategically to Democrats:

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), the current frontrunner for the 2008 presidential nomination, received a $5,000 check from Wal-Mart in February. Congressman Harold Ford (D-TN), a Democratic candidate for Senate and rising star within the party, also took a $5,000 contribution. And Congressman Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, received $5,000 from Wal-Mart in April. This year, Wal-Mart's giving has been nearly even between the two parties.

If Wal-Mart is so bad, why are Clinton, Ford and Menendez cashing their checks? And if Wal-Mart is so anti-worker, why is the firm's PAC contributing to liberals?

The article has much, much more on non-political subjects. [H/T: Don Boudreaux]

Posted by Kevin at 3:55 PM

February 18, 2005

Quebec Labor Minister Shifted to Transport

I doubt his replacement will be any less pro-WM-union:

Former Labour Minister Michel Despr�s is now Transportation Minister...

Before politics, Despr�s was operations manger of Groupe gestion Sal Tan Inc., and Director general, Association qu�b�coise de l'industrie de la p�che. He also acted as special adviser, Department of Canadian Heritage.

Most recently as labour minister, Despr�s has been battling a Saguenay Wal-Mart store along with the Quebec Federation of Labour, which has been trying to get a collective agreement for a newly-established union. Wal-Mart Canada announced it will close the store on May 6 because it's not profitable.

Earlier this week Despres ordered that the collective bargaining process continue despite the threatened closure. He [sic] said he would impose an arbitrator who will have the power to impose a contract if Wal-Mart and the union don't agree on one by Feb. 19.

Note however, that Despres recognizes that the government arbitrator does not have the authority to force WM to keep the store open:
In Quebec City, provincial Labour Minister Michel Despres said the collective bargaining process at the Saguenay store will continue despite the threatened closure.

Despres said he will impose an arbitrator if Wal-Mart and the union don't agree on one by Feb. 19. The arbitrator will have the power to impose a contract between Wal-Mart and the union before the store closes.

However, the arbitrator would not have the power to force the Saguenay store to remain open, Despres said.

Andrew Pelletier, a Wal-Mart spokesman, called arbitration a "normal course of action" that would proceed whether the store was open or not.

"We're going to respect the process and that's part of the process," he said in a telephone interview from Toronto. "We've bargained in good faith all along and we've always respected the process.

"The union walked away from the bargaining process, not us," he added, noting that bargaining sessions had been scheduled for a few more months.

Meanwhile the union doesn't like this one bit:
Noel Mallette, a labor-relations professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal, said the union�s strategy is doomed to fail. "Under Quebec law, Wal-Mart has the right to close the store," Mallette said in a telephone interview Monday. "There is nothing illegal in what they did. All the minister can do is put political pressure in Wal-Mart, but he has no legal recourse."

The union also said Monday it plans to file an unfair labor practice complaint to the Labor Minister against Wal-Mart, while asking the Quebec Labor Relations Commission to force the company to prove that the Jonquiere store was unprofitable. Jonquiere is about 290 miles north of Montreal. "How do I know they are profitable? Because the parking lot is full," Fraser said.

OK, so release the profit data, but also release transcipts and documentation for the collective bargaining negotiations. Let us decide. Neither WM nor the unions would dare give up control of their messages.

Posted by Kevin at 1:36 PM

December 20, 2004

WM and Taxes in Chicago

The incredibly underrated and under-read Stephen Karlson links to this piece in the Chicago Tribune (rr) about Chicago's tax problems:

Falling wages? No sweat. Ald. Edward Burke (14th), longtime chairman of the Chicago City Council Finance Committee, is sponsoring an ordinance that would require big-box discount stores such as Wal-Mart to pay their employees a "living wage" of $9.43 an hour . Sure beats the cheesy $5.15 an hour federal minimum wage.
That wouldn't really have such a dramatic effect--since, if I remember correctly the average hourly wage at WM in Chicago is over $9. However, there are other problems.

Need health insurance? If the big discounters don't add medical coverage to their benefits packages, Burke's Law will tack on another $3 an hour so workers can buy their own coverage.

Say you don't work for a big retailer? No problem. All should benefit from another Burke-backed requirement: 40 percent of all merchandise sold in the big stores must be made right here in the USA.

This does not bode well for the windy city. Note that if they insist that all those goods must be made in the USA, then China will have to become the 51st member of the Union.

Anyway, Chicago is a high tax region--and the taxes will be getting even more punative. However, people respond to high taxes by living and shopping (at WM) elsewhere:

The real bleeding, though, involves sofas and bedroom sets, refrigerators and DVD players, PCs and iPods. A research outfit called MetroEdge estimates Chicago residents spent $6.5 billion last year on stuff purchased outside the city. Wal-Mart alone figures Chicago residents dropped about $500 million at its 35 suburban stores.
Stephen notes, humorously:
Solution, according to Mr McCarron: make Chicago its own country, and build an Iron Curtain around it. Particularly strong sanctions for those who shop at Wal-Mart.

Posted by Kevin at 12:56 PM

December 17, 2004

Bernard Kerik, WM, & Hiring Illegal Immigrants

Jacob Hornberger wonders why the people who pounded on WM for hiring contractors who used illegal immigrants are silent on the charges that Bernard Kerik hiring an illegal immigrant nanny:

Amidst all the hubbub over Bernard Kerik�s decision to remove himself from consideration as director of Homeland Security owing to his reported hiring of an illegal-immigrant nanny, no one, including the press, seems to be asking an important question: Why aren�t the feds seeking a criminal indictment against him? After all, hasn�t it been a federal felony offense since 1986 for any American to hire an illegal immigrant? Didn�t the feds charge Tyson Foods officials with hiring illegal immigrants just last year? Haven't they also targeted Walmart executives for possible indictment for the same thing?

So, why no federal criminal indictment for President Bush's cabinet nominee Bernard Kerik for hiring an illegal immigrant?

Of course, we know why Kerik really withdrew...

Posted by Kevin at 10:32 AM

December 14, 2004

Development Permit Abuse

I've written before about the abuse of zoning and development permits to try to keep Walmart out of an area. In fact, the real reason WM wanted a vote (that it eventually lost) in Inglewood, CA is that the local politicians were abusing the regulatory process. Now comes another case where a development permit for one site requires WM to lease another building elsewhere:

Not even Wal-Mart is happy with the Planning Commission's recent approval of a 226,868-square-foot Supercenter and nearly a dozen other retailers in southwest Lodi.

A firm associated with the retail giant was among two to appeal the commission's Dec. 8 approval of the project's environmental report, use permit and tentative parcel map to City Council, said Community Development Director Konradt Bartlam. Doucet & Associates, a Roseville-based civil engineering firm, is contesting two conditions tacked on by the commission, including one that requires Wal-Mart to lease its existing store before it can receive a building permit for the Supercenter.

Like it or not, this type of authority does not really rest in the hands of the planning commission. It's seems like an overt abuse of the power granted to them.

Posted by Kevin at 11:37 AM

November 10, 2004

WM Documentaries

Both CNBC and FRONTLINE will examine WalMart in depth:

THE AGE OF WAL-MART: INSIDE AMERICA'S MOST POWERFUL COMPANY. CNBC takes a tough look at the nation's largest and most controversial retailer. Tonight at 7 and 10 on CNBC.

IS WAL-MART GOOD FOR AMERICA? "Frontline" takes a tougher look. [It should be on next Tuesday, check your local listings].

I know people who swear by Wal-Mart and people who swear at it, folks who break into grins when they see the retail chain's flying, price- slashing smiley-face symbol in a TV commercial and folks who would like to practice their skeet-shooting on it. Whichever camp you're in, two new documentaries about the company, one tonight and one next Tuesday, should be of interest....

CNBC's report is the less adversarial of the two, but mainly because it spends more time on the history and day- to-day operation of Wal-Mart than "Frontline" does. CNBC is a business network, after all, and it's pitching its two- hour program to people curious about the inner workings of the company as well as to Wal-Mart's clientele and critics....

Both the CNBC documentary and the "Frontline" report would be stronger if they had done the hard math, so to speak, of comparing one town's per-capita income and tax collections before and after Wal-Mart's arrival, and if they had put Wal-Mart's business practices in the context of those of other big box retailers such as Target and Costco. But either program provides a good primer for a discussion of what our best interests really are.

Posted by Kevin at 10:18 AM

November 7, 2004

Dems to Declare War on Wal-Mart

The Boston Globe asked five Democrats where their party stands after the election defeat the other night. A one Rick Perlstein, chief political correspondent for the Village Voice, says they need to make Wal-Mart an issue(via John Miller at The Corner):

ON ELECTION MORNING I was listening to National Public Radio -- part of what Nation columnist Eric Alterman calls the "So-Called Liberal Media" -- when I heard the kind of thing that drives Democrats like me around the bend. A commentator was explaining that the answer to all of Japan's economic woes was . . . Wal-Mart.

"It could drive smaller retailers out of business, free up land for better uses," I heard -- although I barely heard it over my own cursing. This is not a matter of free trade. It is about the fact that Wal-Mart is a corporate predator, alleged to have broken all kinds of labor, immigration, and anti-discrimination laws. What's more, economists have argued that, far from boosting weak local economies, the presence of a Wal-Mart store in a town kills more jobs than it replaces. Why, I asked my radio, does NPR feel that the dictates of "balance" require them to put on radical right-wing free market ideologues, even when they're telling less than half the truth?

Then, the announcer gave the identity of the commentator, and I really got mad. It was a former undersecretary of commerce for the Clinton administration -- a Democrat.

This is an election story. One year ago, I reported in an article from Rockford, Ill., that when heartland Americans are asked what they think is going wrong with America, "Wal-Mart" is one of the first words out of their mouths. "They pay their workers substandard wages," one factory worker told me. Interestingly, his boss hates them even more -- for the way they force manufacturing jobs out of the country in their too-ruthless drive to cut costs. Judy, another factory owner, who soon after I spoke to her lost her business, said it was a family values issue: "The moms that used to have a factory job with me and who go home at the end of eight hours . . . and take care of their children and have decent day care, now they're working two jobs at Wal-Mart with no health benefits."

And yet the Democrats are not in a position to capitalize on this sort of broad-based frustration with our nation's present Wal-Mart economy, because they are complicit in it. Here's one example: Hillary Clinton is a former member of the board of directors of Wal-Mart. She should not be able to get within spitting distance of a Democratic presidential nomination until she explains, if not apologizes for, her service on it.

For a party whose major competitive advantage over the opposition is its credibility in protecting ordinary people from economic insecurity, anything that compromises that credibility is disastrous.

Even worse, the Democrats don't need Wal-Mart's support -- but the Republicans certainly do: Eighty percent of the staggering $1.5 million in contributions from Wal-Mart's political action committee, the second biggest in corporate America, went to Republicans. The stronger this corporation is, the better off the Republican Party is. And, this Democrat believes, the worse off America is.

We've already heard a lot about the rise of the evangelical vote in this presidential election. Well, God-fearing middle Americans who also fear for their families' economic security would be far more likely to vote their economic interests -- rather than on matters like gay marriage and abortion -- if the Democratic Party beat a public retreat from a politics that condones or even celebrates the Wal-Martization of America and the world. This is the way forward for the Democrats.

Posted by Bob at 2:03 PM