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Selling Women Short: The Landmark Battle for Workers' Rights At Wal-mart First printing. Edition

12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0465023158
ISBN-10: 0465023150
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Fortune magazine's "Most Admired Company" for two years running, Wal-Mart offers its customers low prices and its shareholders big profits, but as freelance journalist Featherstone (Students Against Sweatshops) argues, this comes at great cost. Wal-Mart's success is based not only on its inexpensive merchandise or its popularity (Featherstone cites working-class shoppers and Paris Hilton among Wal-Mart's fans) but on bad labor practices. Using a close investigation of the class action suit Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and extensive interviews with female workers, Featherstone indicts Wal-Mart for low wages, discriminatory policies and sexist practices. "[Our] district manager sometimes held lunch meetings at Hooters restaurants," one female employee explains; another recalls being asked to work "off the clock." Failure to post open positions, exclusively male social gatherings, pay discrimination, "persistent segregation of departments"—all are part, she argues, of Wal-Mart's deep-rooted culture of sexism. Many women employed full-time at Wal-Mart make so little that they are dependent on public assistance: "It is curious that Wal-Mart—the icon of American free enterprise and self-sufficiency...—turns out to be one of the biggest 'welfare queens' of our time," Featherstone writes. She doesn't give much time to related topics—racism, exploited overseas labor—but this is a clearly written and compelling book. It may not keep readers from their local Supercenters, but it should make them take a closer look at who's working the register.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Between 2000 and 2003, women workers at Wal-Mart stores across the country filed a class-action suit against the company for sex discrimination in promotions, pay, and job assignments. Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. is potentially the largest class-action suit in history, representing 1.6 million past and present women employees. The bare statistics reveal that Wal-Mart is sorely behind the rest of the country in promoting women, but the suit must also show that discrimination occurred in individual cases. Featherstone's interviews with the plaintiffs reveal an entrenched good ol' boy network at the company, where highly qualified women are routinely passed over for promotions that are given to men with less experience. Even more blatant are the pay inequities that harken back to 1950s attitudes about the male being the head of the household. These are heartbreaking stories of loyal employees who remained fervent believers in Wal-Mart despite being ridiculed for wanting to succeed. Caught up in the cultlike corporate culture, they bought into the Wal-Mart propaganda about rural family values while the company feeds off the poorest, fails to provide a living wage, and fights unionization tooth and nail. Wal-Mart, whose unfair labor practices are lowering the bar for all workers, is already responding to high-profile press coverage. Featherstone's chronicling of the personal side of the story should draw even more attention to these crucial issues. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First printing. edition (November 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465023150
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465023158
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,669,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ken Nash on December 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Betty Dukes is the lead plaintiff in a recent class action lawsuit charging Wal-Mart, the nation's biggest employer, with sex discrimination in pay and promotions.The giant retailer recognized the energy and dedication of the 52-year-old African American clerk - until she applied for promotion to management and crashed into a glass ceiling. When she complained, she was demoted. More than 100 women working at Wal-Mart joined Ms. Dukes in the suit, which charged that advancement at Wal-Mart is controlled by an "old boys" network. They came forward to talk about how they gave their all for Wal-Mart only to see men who were their juniors and had contributed less racing up the management hierarchy.

The case is the largest class-action suit in history, covering 1.6 million past and present women employees.Liza Featherstone tells their story in "Selling Women Short: The Landmark Battle for Workers Rights at Wal-Mart." Wal-Mart projects an image of a family-friendly company whose workers are valued "associates." But Wal-Mart managers often justify paying men more because they must provide for a family and women less because their family responsibilities might interfere with managerial duties. Women make up more than two-thirds of Wal-Mart's workers, but only 1/3 of its managers. The firm's deep-rooted sexist culture includes meetings at Hooters restaurants, exclusively male social gatherings and persistent segregation of entire departments.

Featherstone points out that even if all the discrimination ended, most Wal-Mart workers would still live in poverty with many needing food stamps and Medicaid to survive.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Solly K. Minkton on November 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
(As for the punctuation, just click on the book cover! It's Amazon's error, not Ms. Featherstone's or the publisher's.)

If you have any doubts about who's right in the big Wal-Mart class-action lawsuit, look no further than this book by Liza Featherstone, a longtime labor reporter. Her interviews with women who work for the retail giant will tell you all you need to know about who's working harder -- the mothers and wives and daughters struggling to get by on shockingly low wages, or the management of the company trying as hard as it can to keep them from getting promoted or even paid equally. Betty Dukes, the African American lead plaintiff in the case, deserves a place in the American hero pantheon.

Read "Selling Women Short" and see America as it is, not as politicians want you to imagine it. Ms. Featherstone's poignant, hard-hitting, and often hilarious narrative will be an essential companion as this historic case continues to change the face of labor as we know it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Malvin VINE VOICE on July 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Selling Women Short" by Liza Featherstone is an engaging book about the historic 'Betty Dukes vs Wal-Mart Stores Inc' class action lawsuit that alleges Wal-Mart's institutionalized discrimination of its female employees. Skillfully weaving anecdotes and profiles of key plaintiffs and their claims of sexism with research about Wal-Mart and its Orwellian corporate culture, the book provides an excellent critique of the company's numerous illegal behaviors and a humane narrative of its female employees' struggle for justice.

Interestingly, Ms. Featherstone's analysis suggests that the company's paradigmatic success is attributable to its parasitical relationship with the declining fortunes of the working class. Wal-Mart cynically promotes itself as a pro-family, pro-American company even as it offers poverty-level wages and imports most of its wares from foreign, low-wage countries. In this manner, Ms. Featherstone explains that Wal-Mart both contributes to and profits from the exploitation of marginalized female laborers.

Ms. Featherstone is careful to discuss the limitations of the lawsuit as a tool to effect systemic change at Wal-Mart. She contends that it is probably equally important for the public to become educated about the inequities at Wal-Mart in order to create a media firestorm that might pressure the company to change its ways. However, Ms. Featherstone describes the difficulties that unions and interest groups have had trying to organize labor and shoppers in the struggle with Wal-Mart, contending that our consumer culture tends to set aside worker's rights issues in favor of shopping expediency. Nevertheless, as the lawsuit moves forward the author is hopeful that Wal-Mart may soon feel the need to make significant changes in order to avert a court-imposed solution and/or a public relations catastrophe.

I highly recommend this outstanding book to everyone.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Builder Levy on November 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Best non-fiction read of the year, Selling Women Short is neither boring nor pedantic. It is packed with hard hitting realism dealing with the lives and stories of real hardworking women in their quest to survive and rise within Wal-Mart's anti-woman, anti-union corporate behemoth. This fascinating true story reveals how the Wal-Mart culture destructively works against poor working women while "serving" their poor workingclass communities. Against daunting and seemingly hopeless odds, most of the women Featherstone has written about have not given up. Their perseverance is inspiring. Lisa Featherstone's must-read book is inspiring.

Builder Levy, NYC
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