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What Sam Walton Hath Wrought,
This review is from: Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price (DVD)
Everyone knows the story: WalMart waltzes into a small to medium-sized town, promises jobs and better shopping opportunities for everyone, secures tons of tax concessions, opens to great fanfare among local politicians and property developers, and within a year turns the former downtown area into a wasteland of shuttered buildings and ruined family businesses. But how many people know about the following:
-- That WalMart managers keep lists of places Associates could go for public assistance. As one employee was told, "There are lots of programs out there. Use your taxpayers' dollars!" The movie estimates that it costs American taxpayers over $1.5 billion every year to support WalMart employees.
-- That five Walton family members are in the top ten of America's richest people but give less than 1% of their wealth to charity (Bill Gates has given 58%) but over $3.2 million in political contributions in 2004 alone (one guess as to which political party).
-- That the moment the first union in a WalMart Canada store was certified, the company closed the store, claiming it was not profitable.
-- That the moment the tax abatements expired for their store in Cathedral City, CA, WalMart relocated it two miles away, just beyond the city line.
-- That there were over 27 million square feet of abandoned WalMart store space around the U.S.
-- That WalMart knew as early as 1994 from internal studies that 80% of their store crime occurred in the parking lots but has done virtually nothing to make their customers safe and, in fact, tried to hide from the courts that they had even done these studies.
-- That store managers are taught how to log onto the WalMart system under false ID's in order to change employees' reported hours so that no overtime would be paid, and that WalMart settled a law suit for $50 million for unpaid overtime in Colorado alone, and that WalMart faces similar work hour and overtime law suits in 31 states.
As Robert Greenwald's new DVD, WALMART: THE HIGH COST OF LOW PRICE (HCLP) shows in stunningly personal detail, these are just some of the real truths about WalMart, a company that preys on communities and individual lives for the sake of their profits and shareholders. Greenwald's documentary makes it abundantly clear that those shareholders are not likely to be WalMart employees - those individuals can barely afford to feed their families, let alone share in their employer's success through WalMart's stock.
Greenwald points out in one of the DVD's special features that he set out originally to build his documentary around the experiences of a single current employee. He found many who would talk to him off camera, but no one who would "go public" out of fear. As a result, he opted to tell many smaller stories of past and current employees (including management level people), small business owners whose family businesses were bankrupted by WalMart, community action groups who have fought WalMart, and even a customer who was assaulted in one of WalMart's unprotected parking lots. Not only do these "little people" stories give the documentary a human face, they also present a starkly contrasting reality to various segments of "corporate speak" from Lee Scott, the company's president.
Perhaps the defining moment in WALMART: HCLP comes from the experiences of Edith Arana, a black woman who worked for the company in Oxnard, CA for six years and was repeatedly praised as a future management candidate. When the day came that she asked about her future, she was told there was no place for "people like her" in WalMart management. "What do you mean, people like me?" she asked. "Do you mean because I'm a woman, or because I'm black?" "Well, two out of two ain't bad," was the reply.
WALMART: THE HIGH COST OF LOW PRICE tells a story of corporate inhumanity, of blatant disregard for the law, the environment, civil rights, worker's rights, women's rights, and the rights and welfare of its own employees. Critics will argue that Greenwald's story is one-sided, but how else will we hear the side that can't spend millions on advertising, PR, lobbying, and lawyers? Watch this movie with your teenaged children. Encourage your high schools to have teachers show this movie (and perhaps THE CORPORATION, as well) and have the students discuss the enormous human cost from predatory and soulless profit-seeking for its own sake. Do we really want a job as a WalMart sales associate to become our country's new definition of the American working class dream?