Let's talk about why
I don't like whips, I don't like chains
I don't go choppin' up my neighbors' brains
UP AGAINST THE WAL-MART
Wal-Mart is the nation's (and the world's) biggest retailer. But the problem is not just Wal-Mart - Toys R Us, McDonalds, Microsoft, Barnes and Noble, Starbucks, the Gap, Kinko's, Circuit City, Home Depot, Nations Bank...all wipe out the smaller, more local competition. Why? Because they can. McDonalds in the Eiffel Tower, K-Mart in Greenwich Village - is this our destiny? Read on....
Only a company of their size can buy direct from manufacturers, cutting out the distributor. They buy so cheaply they can resell to other stores at cheaper than wholesale. Thus they can ruin the competition through PREDATORY PRICING.
WAL-MART REPORT CARD
The trend of mega-mergers and huge chains is wiping out small business everywhere, and with it the distinctiveness of local cultures. Not just in the U.S., but all over this great varied planet. Chains are everywhere, and who benefits? Not the small business, not the small town, not the individual - only a few guys pretty high up in the chain's food chain. Consider: Wal-Mart's annual sales are larger than the entire Gross Domestic Product of 161 countries! Do the Wal-Math: They are bigger than most nations, yet they have no government that answers to the people it affects. They are unaccountable to anyone. Democracy must include the ability to control those who control us!
If a town declines to welcome GodzillaMart, the next town over
will take it, pulling trade and tax dollars out of local coffers.
The town has no choice - the terms are dictated by the retail giant
from afar. Is this right, fair, or decent? Is this Middle American
family values? No more mom and pop stores here. The nation is being
covered by a Wal-to-Wal-Mart carpet, the nation blanketed not with
daisy chains of wildflowers, but something more like kudzu.
BUT IT'S CHEAP AND CONVENIENT!
YES. For shoppers. But guess what: Democracy, human rights, and social justice are never cheap, and seldom convenient. If we shop conveniently while Rome burns, we'll have only ourselves to blame when they've reduced our workforce to workfare and our towns to malls, our culture to cookie-cutter sameness.
YES. IT'S CONVENIENT TO HIRE CHEAP LABOR.
SMALL BUSINESS PEOPLE...
...end up working in a department of Wal-Mart, nostalgic for their homey store and friendly neighborhood shopping experience. And lots of these jobs are part-time and without benefits.Who are the pillars of your community? The merchant, the banker, the principal, the poet, the police chief, the alderman.....None of these people can decide what sort of town you'll have. ONLY Wal-Mart CAN. Megastores tear the social fabric.
SMALL TOWN LIFE ALTERED
Downtowns destroyed, the shopping experience robbed of its community flavor, reduced to Downtown in a Box. Shopping malls are all the same - you could be anywhere in the country (or world), except where you really are - your town.
THEY'VE GOT US...
...filing through their aisles and checkstands in orderly fashion, buying their wares and buying their revision of the flavor of our lives. Perhaps we've forgotten what it was like to walk instead of drive, to encounter our neighbors on foot instead of in traffic. Perhaps we've forgotten the vibrancy of civic life - the discussion of issues, the (God forbid!)...
that takes place on city streets. In a privately owned shopping mall, it's illegal to pass out leaflets telling shoppers about the suffering of the workers who picked the strawberries, sewed the sneakers....This separation of commerce from social responsibility means that we don't get to vote on basic human rights where it really matters, where we have power: at the point of sale.
WHAT ABOUT THE WORKERS?
The concentration of ownership and power, along with treaties
like GATT and NAFTA, means more and cruder exploitation of workers
everywhere. Jobs flee America as manufacturing is done by people
like Wendy Diaz in Honduras. Diaz told Kathie Lee Gifford what it
was like to earn 31 cents an hour, allowed to go to the bathroom
only twice a day, be cursed and screamed at, and be able to do
nothing about it. There is one unionized Wal-Mart - it's in
"We cannot change the economic condition of women until we change the wages and working conditions in the retail industry. And we cannot change the retail industry until we change Wal-Mart. They will not have our consumer dollars to wage war on our paychecks."
The White House, under pressure from workers' movements around the world, has instituted a Task Force on sweatshops, pushing for independent monitoring and a living wage. Wal-Mart has refused to join in. They have also opposed health care reform and minimum wage increase, and defied the embargo on Haiti's former military regime, paying workers 14 cents an hour. Why? That's their job. What's ours?
Wal-Mart tells the record industry what they don't like, and the industry produces special "clean" versions for sale by Wal-Mart - versions which are then resold to other retailers. Not to defend obscenity, but look who's deciding what's obscene? Is Wal-Mart your daddy? They are the biggest music retailer in the country - in many places, the only music retailer. Wal-Mart has become the W-chip, blocking or altering album covers and lyrics - not on your home television, but at the global level. Such power is never restricted to obscenity - it always leads to wider controls. They cause musicians to censor themselves in advance. Get Wal-Mart out of the censorship business!
The more concrete we lay, the more we get in a motorized box to drive to a great box to buy things in boxes to take home to our boxes...the more we box ourselves and the environment in. Mall means sprawl. Look at the landscape that is our heritage, our birthright, and decide if you want it malled. Do you want America to become Generica? Stop Sprawl-Mart.
IT'S INEVITABLE - IT'S PROGRESS.
Well, God help us. Convenience and efficiency do not make it right. Placing a high value on economic effectiveness and a low value on human fairness and diversity is not the American way. It's not any way at all, except the survival of the meanest.
IT'S NOT PROGRESS!
Wal-Mart may have won this round, but David did beat Goliath in the end. Among those opposing Wal-Mart are the UFCW, FIEF (an international labor organization working against Wal-Mart's exploitation in many countries), and community organizations from Gig Harbor, Washington, Santa Clarita, California, De Land, Florida, Bath, Maine, Guelph, Ontario....to the fine folks at "Save Our Small Town Way of Life" in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
When you make decisions as a consumer, you may be cutting your own throat as a worker.
BE A CITIZEN
think, learn, and act. It's a matter of community vs. consumerism.....
BRAINS VS. CHAINS
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