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October 27, 2003

Sales From The Dark Side

A professor of mine used to talk about something called “Bubba” logic. The gist of this was: if someone presented him an idea that he felt would not be completely understandable to his Bubba (his grandmother), he didn’t want to hear it.

When you listen to the administration these days, they say that the economy is in recovery. If that’s so, how would you explain to Bubba that U.S. manufacturing jobs are disappearing at a record rate; that jobs are so scarce; that the jobs that are available are increasingly lower-wage; and that more and more jobs force workers to share the cost of healthcare, or provide no coverage at all?

If Bubba was living in California right now, she probably couldn’t help but notice all those workers outside Vons and Ralphs and Albertson who have been locked out of their jobs. That’s because the big supermarket chains are trying to force the unions to accept lower wages and reductions in health care benefits. That’s because they say something big coming. That big thing is Walmart.

(Actually, if the supermarkets carefully laid out their claims to Bubba, she would probably just see a lot of scare tactics–but that’s another story.)

Walmart is a big thing, though. They have made small business people very mad, because they aren’t buying the stuff they sell from U.S. suppliers. They get most of it from China, because it’s made at sweat-shop rates. In fact, Walmart ranks as China’s eighth largest trading partner, ahead of England and Russia. (When Bubba heard that, she had to park herself on the sofa.)

Walmart doesn’t just arrive in a town, it descends. They are know to decimate Main Street. Also, Walmart is notorious for paying low wages and manipulating workers. (Just this week, they were charged with knowingly hiring maintenance sub-contractors who were exploiting illegal aliens.) Meanwhile, “big box” stores such as Walmart typically pit cash-starved cities against one another. Desperate for the sales tax revenue, cities are often willing to offer substantial real estate and business incentives to land the store. Once they arrive, these stores also employ strategies to move profits around so they pay the minimal state corporate taxes.

While the administration and the Congress rattle on about the economy in terms that cause Bubba to scratch her head, the dark force of retailing is heading for your town–if it hasn’t crushed it already.


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  • Anthony Roberts

    Personally, you couldn’t drag me into the zoo called Wall-Mart. However, I do know that minimum wage earners are trapped and can hardly afford to shop anywhere else. It’s a never ending circle with Wall-Mart blackmailing their supplyers into shipping their jobs overseas in order to sell to this behemoth, thus forcing their ex-workers into lower paying jobs (if any), which means: shopping at Wall-Mart.

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