Saturday, June 28, 2014

Save Money. Live Better. Shop Elsewhere.

As a teenager, I belonged to a retail union. This enabled me to work 20 hours a week at Master's, a regional department store. When business slowed, the store laid off workers, including me. The union rep said she could get my hours back -- or I could just accept the union's unemployment compensation, which amounted to the same check I'd get if I went back to work.

Master's, if it existed today, would have been gutted by monolithic Wal-mart, whose "Save Money, Live Better" mantra masks a business strategy that demands lower costs for the goods it sells. This, in turn, sends manufacturing jobs to countries that don't defend the safety of their employees. That's what unions did best: they led the push for safer working conditions and livable wages.

By Walmart from Bentonville, USA  (Walmart’s Grease Fuel Truck)
 [CC-BY-2.0 (]
via Wikimedia Commons
You may have missed how Wal-mart attempted to trample a unionization move at a store in Canada. Last week, in Quebec, Canada's Supreme Court said the company broke the rules by closing the Jonquiere store just a few months after employees voted to unionize. The store never re-opened, but Wal-mart must now compensate its former employees for lost earnings. An arbiter will determine the extent of what Wal-mart pays.

Wal-mart, on its foundation website, says: "It’s our mission to create opportunities so people can live better. We consider it our responsibility to make a positive impact in the communities we serve." As a public relations strategy, the company's grants to local community organizations are noteworthy. But is that really living better?

That slogan somehow inconsistent with shuttering a store in a community of about 55,000, just to smack down a few employees seeking better workplace conditions and consistency of wages.

If you want a broader perspective of Wal-mart's practices, devote some time to viewing "Wal-mart: The High Cost of Low Prices," now viewable on YouTube at .

If you prefer to act, however, just shop elsewhere. Don't fall for "Save Money, Live Better" slogans from a company that often works to dismantle the quality of life in communities where it does business.