Taking aim at Wal-Mart

The Progressive Student Alliance (PSA) conducted a forum on Wal-Mart’s unethical business practices Wednesday. PSA invited a number of experts to speak about the detrimental effects of Wal-Mart’s business plan on local communities and the national economy. National and local anti-Wal-Mart campaigns Wake Up Wal-Mart and L.E.T.’s (Lawrence Ewing Trenton) Stop Wal-Mart also attended in an effort to increase student participation.

“This is a company that fires women for filing sexual harassment charges, denies workers lunch breaks, violates child labor laws and pays its employees poverty level wages,” Carol Gay, member of the Solidarity Singers, a group that performed anti-Wal-Mart songs at the PSA presentation, said. “Wal-Mart is the epitome of corporate greed and abuse.”

As the wealthiest corporation in the world, Wal-Mart is now a copied business model in today’s economy. “It creates a dangerous role model for other employers,” Jim Chambers of the United Food Commercial Workers Union said. “Now other companies are saying, ‘Wal-Mart isn’t supplying health care and other benefits to its employees. Why should we?'”

According to the speakers, Wal-Mart does not provide employee health care and pays its workers much less than its competitors. The company has even gone as far as to delete time off of workers’ timecards, according to a New York Times study circulated during the meeting.

Wal-Mart is the world’s largest corporate employer, and the most sued corporation in the world.

Currently there is a class-action suit by 1.6 million women over gender discrimination pending against the company. According to a study by the Impact Fund, women make up 92 percent of cashiers but only 14 percent of store management and receive thousands less in wages.

These low labor wages force many employees under the poverty line. Many have to resort to public health systems such as Family Care, a program funded by taxpayers. Wal-Mart employs the largest number of Family Care recipients.

“Everybody else needs to chip in just for people to survive,” Michele Naples, associate professor of economics at the College, said. “This is what we bring to our communities.”

“According to the one-penny study, if Wal-Mart raised their prices on each item just one cent, it would be enough to cover all employees health care,” Chambers said.

The speakers said that Wal-Mart has a detrimental effect on national and international labor rights. Wal-Mart imports many of its products from nations that abuse workers. “Fifteen-hour stretches (of work) for Bangladeshi workers,” Naples said.

In between lecturers, The Solidarity Singers of the New Jersey Industrial Union performed anti-Wal-Mart songs. The songs were sung to popular tunes, with lyrics like “Found a Wal-Mart where our town’s life used to be. Now we have no past or future, all replaced by corporate greed.”

Carol Lerner of the L.E.T.’s Stop Wal-Mart campaign urged student involvement. “We need your energy, your idealism, we need your ideas,” she said.