Saturday, February 12, 2011

Wal-Mart Bias, NYC Edition

From today's WSJ, an editorial by Charles Fishman, on Wal-Mart's attempt to open stores in NYC, and the typical, expected opposition it faces (but which apparently Home Depot, Target and Family Dollar didn't face):

"The question, though, is why in capitalist democracy those fears of competition should determine public policy. New York is famous as the center of the nation's media business. But the city didn't step in and ban the Internet 15 years ago out of fear that the city's magazines, ad agencies, TV networks and music recording would be devastated by the new media. And many were.

The city's small groceries, diners, coffee shops, food trucks and boutiques also aren't quite as fragile as the Wal-Mart critics would have us believe. They've already survived the big-box, national-chain onslaught.

Home Depot first came to New York City in 1994. It now has 21 locations, including two in Manhattan. Target first opened in New York in 1998, and now has 10 stores, including one in Harlem. New York has Kohl's and Best Buy, Costco and Ikea, Olive Garden and McDonalds. For those worried about low-priced competition, the city already has 50 Family Dollar outlets. And Manhattan has 150 Duane Reade drug stores, often sharing the same block with thriving family-owned bodegas.

The varied, dense, energetic economy of New York City is very different than the commercial squares of the small towns where Wal-Mart earned its reputation for wiping out local merchants. In Gotham, anyone who doesn't like Wal-Mart's employment and business practices can work and shop elsewhere. Yes, Wal-Mart is nonunion, but Target and Home Depot and Starbucks are all nonunion as well, as are most mom-and-pop stores. 

Perhaps most importantly, it's puzzling why elected officials would oppose a store that, everyone agrees, brings low prices to working-class consumers who need those low prices more than ever."


At 2/12/2011 4:44 PM, Blogger Colin said...

Also note this article on Wal-Mart coming to DC. Among its highlights:

"The anti-Wal-Mart rally Monday drew only about 70 people, of whom about 20 were covering the event for local media."

At 2/12/2011 5:07 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Perhaps, many people don't like Wal-Mart in particular, because it's the most successful retailer.

I suspect, the real reason why many people don't like Wal-Mart is they have idealistic views of the world that their own actions contradict.

At 2/12/2011 9:05 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Another reason may be the fear Wal-Mart makes people politically conservative:

Wal-Mart Wikipedia

Customer base

A poll indicated that after 2004 US Presidential Election 76% of voters who shopped at Wal-Mart once a week voted for George W. Bush, while only 23% supported senator John Kerry.

When measured against other similar retailers in the U.S., frequent Wal-Mart shoppers were rated the most politically conservative.

In 2006, Wal-Mart took steps to expand its US customer base, announcing a modification in its US stores from a "one-size-fits-all" merchandising strategy to one designed to "reflect each of six demographic groups – African-Americans, the affluent, empty-nesters, Hispanics, suburbanites and rural residents."

At 2/13/2011 3:19 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"Another reason may be the fear Wal-Mart makes people politically conservative"...

I'm that fear goes double for N.E. politicos...

At 2/13/2011 11:18 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

It seems, around one-third of WalMart stores in the U.S. are in Southern states, which are politically conservative.

However, according to, WalMart employees are paid roughly the same as Starbucks employees.

Yet, Starbucks is expensive. A cup of coffee can cost $5.

Starbucks needs more competition to reduce prices for consumers.

Similar to VitaminWater competing with Gatorade, and store brands reducing prices even more.

At 2/13/2011 6:55 PM, Blogger Roy Lofquist said...

The unions have been at war with Walmart for quite a while. They have funded "consumer protection" groups in a number of states to trash the company. A while back they ran a very vocal campaign in Arizona about mismarked price tags. Turns out that Walmart had a lower incidence than industry average. The prevalence in the south has more to do with right to work laws than anything else.

At 2/14/2011 9:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wal-Mart gained a bad reputation for a lot of reasons in the past that were not related to labor unions: hiring illegal aliens, locking employees in the store at night with blocked and locked fire doors, forcing employees to work off-the-clock, paying females less than males for the same exact jobs . . . . Many of these problems have been solved, and Wal-Mart has become a much better citizen and exhibit a great business model with many of their innovative ideas such as reduced prescription prices and medical clinics that helps low-income workers.

I doubt Wal-Mart will ever become union friendly, but they have a lot of company in taking that position. Maybe Wal-Mart needs a better public relations firm. Speaking from experience, the big dogs make big targets.

At 2/14/2011 12:25 PM, Blogger Jet Beagle said...

Walt, come on!

WalMart has had trouble in the rust belt because of the challenge it represents to the United Food and Commercial Workers. All that silliness about illegal workers, gender bias, and forced overtime is just cooked up by union agitators and enflamed by the liberal media.

Most large corporations have awarded contracts to firms which hired illegals. Most large corporations have been accused of gender bias. Most large corporations have hired one or two managers who have been caught abusing work laws.

What you neglected to mention in your comment is that WalMart has made food and goods affordable for millions of low-income and middle-income families. Unions want those families to pay a lot more for groceries, toys, and socks so that their unskilled workers can make $14 an hour.

At 2/14/2011 12:31 PM, Blogger Jet Beagle said...

Oh, yeah, Walt. I forgot to mention how much the unions are helping Krogers' workers. I stopped at a Krogers this morning to pick up a few things. One checkout cashier with nothing to do. Six automated checkout machines, all in use by customers, with a couple of customers in queue. Apparently customers would rather wait a couple of minutes than demand more help from union workers. Glad to see it!

At 2/14/2011 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jet Beagle,

I am giving Wal-Mart credit for cleaning up their illegal activities (or at least hiding it better) that gave even people who hate unions a problem with them. Few companies have done so much in so short of a time. They deserve to be recognized for their efforts. I'll let other people debate the pros and cons of Wal-Mart and labor unions.

I don't have a problem giving Kroger workers a choice if they have a union or shoppers a choice on how they want to check out. Do you have a problem giving people choices?

At 2/14/2011 4:26 PM, Blogger Jet Beagle said...

Walt G: "Do you have a problem giving people choices?"

Where does that come from?

I'm proud to say that I live in a Right-to-Work state. Do you?

I exercise my freedom to choose regularly. My family shops for groceries at non-union Wal-Mart. I only visit union retailers when the situation demands it - such as today when I went to nearby Krogers rather than WalMart to get medicine for my cold.

I have no problem with unrestricted free choice Walt. To me, that means no quotas on foreign automobiles and no tariffs on any foreign goods. Furthermore, I believe my freedom to choose should not be impeded in any way just because some foreign government places restrictions on what its citizens may purchase.

But, of course, what you are undoubtedly referring to is the freedom of workers to organize. No problem for me. I do believe the employer should have equal right as the union to influence the workers. That means the employer should have the right to tell workers that their factory or store or office will be shut down if they vote for union representation.

At 2/14/2011 5:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jet Beagle,

The employer can hold employees captive and require them to attend meetings to speak against the union. Access to employees is an overwhelming employer advantage. Telling employees that their factory could shut down is currently an unfair labor practice (ULP).

The only problem that I have with the Right-to-Work law is non-union employees getting representation that they don't pay for: Free riders. I am sure many would say they don't want that representation anyway. The NLRA needs to be changed to allow that to happen.

Employees should have a right to represent themselves any place and at anytime if they so choose, but they also should be able to pay dues or fees if they wish someone else to represent them (unions or other agents).

A lot of workers do not know that you don't have to have a union to bargain collectively. Two or more employees can bargain with an employer using the NLRA as protected concerted activity even in a non-union shop. If the employer will not bargain with your two or more employee "union" just tell him or her that you are going to file a ULP complaint at the nearest NLRB office. This is a right a lot of employees do not know about. Employees might want to use this as a last resort because illegal discharges are common and take a long time to settle with back pay minus other pay and unemployment received as the only remedy IF the case is finally decided after two or three years in their favor (and the employer can appeal it adding a couple more years to the process).

I, too, support the right of consumers to buy whatever they want without tariffs or quotas. That includes "foreign" cars. I support and believe in my union, but just like any family I don't agree with everything they do.

At 2/15/2011 2:59 PM, Blogger Jet Beagle said...

WaltG: "The employer can hold employees captive and require them to attend meetings to speak against the union."

Bull! Every employee has the option to walk out of the meeting and go find other employment, I wholeheartedly support the right of employers to inform employees of the consequences of their actions.

WaltG: "The only problem that I have with the Right-to-Work law is non-union employees getting representation that they don't pay for: Free riders."

That's your viewpoint. You apparently view unions as a Godsend for workers. I view unions as parasites. IMO, of a workforce is partially unionized, the non-union workers are not "free riders". Rather they're victims of the fooolish crap union leaders try to force on the employer. As I see it, unions put the employment of non-union workers at severe risk.

At 2/15/2011 3:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I view unions as a legal option for employees, and a counterbalance to corporate power and the political power corporate money can buy. I have no problem with those who don't care to belong to a union at all.


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