There's been a lot of discussion, and now a documentary about the evils of Wal Mart. Wal Mart, according to critics, is a greedy monster stealing away business from small business owners, discriminating against its employees by unfair health insurance and promotion practices, and purposely preventing full-time employment for some to cut health costs.
The UFCW Union (United Food and Commercial Workers), of which I am a member (in fairness of disclosure), is one of the leaders in the fight against Wal Mart. Just minutes before writing this post, I was watching 20/20 on ABC, which was discussing one of the "Seven Deadly Sins," Greed. Wal Mart was one of the stories (video available here) because of those who "hate" Wal Mart and believe it is truly evil. The UFCW has been leading the fight for unionization at Wal Mart.
After watching the 20/20 segment on Wal Mart, it got me thinking...is Wal Mart truly evil? Or is Wal Mart a thing that has come along like great changes in corporate history before it? Standard Oil was considered a monstrous monopoly. However, because Standard Oil convinced lower pricing through its ability to provide lower prices, people who used to have to go to bed when it got dark outside were able to afford things like oil for lamps. Their lives were arguably improved because of the perceived "greed" of Rockefeller. Vanderbilt was vilified as well, but made travel cheaper and safer, thereby benefiting society.
Unlike Michael Douglas' character's proclamation in the movie "Wall Street" that "money is a zero sum game", in truth, larger pools of wealth have an effect of doing such things as providing lower prices. When lower prices are available to consumers, they can save more money. Therfore, they (the consumers) are also benefiting from the low costs of Wal Mart. Just like generations before them benefited by the low costs created by giants like Standard Oil. Wealth creates more wealth. It's not a pie where if I get a bigger piece, there's less available to you. On the contrary, if I get a big piece of the pie, your portion could become bigger simply because I'm participating in this "game" called capitalism.
Wal Mart is not evil for providing lower prices. Yes, their employees probably deserve to make more money (but for that, there need to be some attitude adjustments, at least at the ones I visit around my area). Yes, they deserve representation, but only if they feel it is necessary. Many chose to take the jobs. They weren't forced. However, just as many other giant companies, there needs to be protections. Is Wal Mart evil? No. Can they improve? Absolutely. Can we have both an improvement in Wal Mart's "behavior" and maintain the low prices that save over 100 million people money each year? I believe it can be done.
No, it's never a cut and dry situation. There are always grey areas. In the interest of the truth, I present you the sides against and not-so-against Wal Mart. What do you feel about Wal Mart? What can be done to improve the situation?
As a UFCW member, I should probably be boycotting Wal Mart, and admittedly I do contribute to the political action part of the UFCW, which means some of my money is most likely going towards the fight against their proclaimed enemy. However, because of the wages I'm making in the contract I'm in, negotiated by the UFCW, I choose to shop at Wal Mart for certain things. Because when it comes right down to it, my bottom line is the one that matters. To think otherwise is foolish. Without clarity on your bottom line, you cannot effectively help others with their bottom lines. Therefore, no boycotting Wal Mart from me. No, they don't get much of my business (I personally hate shopping there for many reasons, but not the prices), but I will not boycott them. I will not call them "evil." I will call them to task for things that are truly unfair as a social action.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this matter.