Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Wal-Mart times 

I got a very interesting link the other day, to an interview with Jon Lehman who used to be the managerial type with Wal-Mart and is now trying to organize the unionization of Wal-Mart's workers (not something WM wants in any manner). The interview was conducted by Frontline and it's entitled: Is Wal-Mart good for America?

Here's background on Jon:

Jon Lehman worked for Wal-Mart for 17 years, managing six stores in four different states before he left the company in 2001 to work for a union trying to organize Wal-Mart employees. In this interview, he recounts how he became disillusioned with the company's focus on profit, and why he feels that the current management has strayed from the principles of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. Lehman also describes how Wal-Mart developed its efficient supply chain, how Wal-Mart's buyers negotiate with manufacturers to drive down costs, and when he first noticed Wal-Mart's importing low-cost goods from China. This transcript is drawn from two interviews with Lehman, conducted on June 4 and Oct. 7, 2004.

It's long, but check it out. Round about the middle things get really interesting. Like how yeah, sure Wal-Mart has low prices, but they are a big help in forcing manufacturing companies to take their jobs overseas; bad about their employees; yes, the American dream is making money, competition and all that. BUT....

Seems PBS put together a bunch of material about Wal-Mart...

Check it out. I'll copy over one passage from the article, the answer to the question posed in the title of the interview:

Is Wal-Mart good for America?

... I don't think Wal-Mart is good for America because what's happening is, yeah, you can get maybe a bag of groceries more, or you might spend $50 at Wal-Mart and spend $50 at Target or Kmart and you might get a few more items at Wal-Mart because of the prices.

But there's a cost to low prices. And the cost is [that] good, American jobs are being shipped overseas. … Many times union jobs are going away, and those same people are having to go to work at Wal-Mart, making a fraction of what they made there and not getting good health care; not getting a good company-paid pension, company-paid health care.

So no, I would say Wal-Mart is not good for America. I think the average person out there that you run into in a Wal-Mart store may say: "Yeah, I love this place, because look at the stuff I can get. Look at the cheap prices." But there's a cost for these low prices, and many people don't realize that.

So in effect, what you're saying is Wal-Mart is good for customers, and Wal-Mart's not good for workers?

Yeah, I think Wal-Mart is temporarily good for the economy. Certainly the stock price, the investment value of Wal-Mart stock -- those things are good for our economy on a short-term [basis]. I think there's going to be a correction that takes place, though, eventually. I don't know what's going to happen.

... Is Wal-Mart good for America in the long run? ... You said in the short run, temporarily it's good, lower prices, and the stock value is good.

Well, what I mean by that is the consumer. It's good for the low-wage consumer, a blue-collar worker out there that is just barely making ends meet. Yeah, they can go to Wal-Mart, fill up their shopping cart and save $20, $30 that week, which may help to pay for the kids' lunches at school or whatever. It may help pay for their gas bill that month, or electricity bill. So yeah, Wal-Mart is good in that respect, OK?

But many people don't look behind that big, yellow smiley face that they show on TV and see the reality of what's happening to our economy here, what's happening to good, American jobs in the United States here. ... Workers are being worked off the clock many times. There's lawsuits, class-action lawsuits, in over 30 states right now of workers saying: "Enough is enough. I'm being worked off the clock, not paid for my overtime." ...

And look behind that yellow smiley face and see what's really happening to workers. Good, American jobs like at Thomson Electronics in Circleville, Ohio -- that poor guy making $15, $16 an hour, now he's [going to be] making a fraction of that, $7, $8 an hour, working 32 hours a week; a meager health care plan that he's got to pay for now, token health care plan; no pension; no future. There's a revolving door at Wal-Mart -- workers coming in, seeing the reality of it. They've been duped by the yellow smiley face many times. Then they go right back out the same door they came in a week later, a month later, a year later, whatever, however long they choose to stay. That's what's happening behind closed doors. That's what's happening [behind] that big, yellow smiley face. ..

h/t - Tom N

Basic business from the manager. However, look at the world economy. Walmart is raising the standards in other parts of the world. Commodity production is not the thrust of the US economy anymore. That's being left to others. We are the technological vanguard for the rest of the world. That's our job--not sewing boxer shorts.
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Name: Corey
Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I'm on a journey with no destination. The path is constantly changing direction but there are always adventures to be had. "Never" and "always" have left my lexicon.

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