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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Wake Up to Wake Up Walmart

If you watch enough tv, you'll soon see this commercial.

This ad paints Walmart as not only heartless but in effect taking a bailout from the tax payers. It's a remarkable accusation to make for a company that continues to enjoy billions in profits even into the teeth of the biggest recession in years.

The ad comes to this conclusion because Walmart doesn't provide health insurance benefits for all its employees. As such, the ad makes the claim that this is a bailout since those employees must then go to the government to get their health care.

Now, I am not insensitive to the idea that corporations have a responsibility to society. I don't believe that corporations can make a profit at the expense of our environment. I also don't believe that corporations should make a profit at the expense of our national security. I don't believe that corporations should make a profit by manipulating markets.

That said, private businesses must be free to make internal decisions without the pressure of outside influence. Community organizations, for instance, are fond of demanding that all retailers pay a living wage. They rarely define a "living wage" and they aren't afraid of picketing and boycotting to force retailers to pay their workers more than the corporation is willing to pay.

This is a perversion of reality. A job is not a right. A retailer has no responsibility to provide health insurance any more than a living wage. The free market takes care of that. The retailer that does the worst job of providing for their employees gets the worst employees. That's where it should be left. Walmart gets ten applications for every position so it's totally absurd to demand that they do anything more than they do already for their employees.

There's of course something more sinister at play here. The group behind these ad is the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. Walmart is not unionized but if it were, you can bet that this group would get a large portion of the workers. That's not something that the ads reveal. This isn't so much about holding Walmart accountable for mistreating their workers, as it is a public relations campaign to convince the country their workers will only be treated right if they're organized.

I have said before that the reason that Walmart refuses to organize is because Walmart has built its business on the concept of economies of scale. Their whole entire operation is predicated on lowering costs, all costs, labor included. Unions raise costs and so Walmart has resisted the unions.

With or without the unions, Walmart has no trouble getting employees. Often, attacks on Walmart turn into little more than rank propaganda. This is just one example. For instance, on the site, there is one campaign to "stop Walmart's war on free speech" and this campaign is directly below "end Walmart's support for Glenn Beck". So, it appears to this union, free speech is a selective right.

Never have I seen a private company attacked and demonized the way that Walmart has been. Walmart isn't doing business with Iran. There's no evidence of a monopoly, polluting the environment, or manipulating markets. In fact, what makes Walmart the enemy of many is their stead fast refusal to unionize and their ability to sell things cheaper and better than their competition. The market should decide their fate not a union with an agenda they don't readily admit.


austin personal trainers said...

US productivity was up nicely for the last decade. One company, Walmart, was responsible for 15% of that total increase. That is amazing.

Anonymous said...

Living in Michigan, I never shop at Walmart. Their stores are never as nice as Meijer, their products are of inferior quality, and their prices are almost never lower. Even when they are, you still get less than what you pay for.

If Meijer isn't around, I shop at Target. Occasionally, I'll check out Sam's Club, but only if a Costco isn't nearby.

That all being said, I think Wake Up is right. If Walmart is making money but its workers get Medicaid, then realistically, Walmart is NOT making money. Then again, I'm sure if people like the Waltons had their way, there would be no Medicaid, either.

The only real way to skirt this is to detach health care from employment. That is why the public option Rahm Emanuel is allegedly trying to make Obama abandon is so necessary.

mike volpe said...

That's just rank propaganda. If you never shop at Walmart how would you know how nice the store is? Seocnd, Walmart is always cheaper than their competitors. So, if you name three that are all cheaper, that smells, especially when you claim you never shop at walmart, so again how would you know.

Finally, that Walmart gets ten apps for every position means they're right. They're under no obligation to give people insurance. If people are dying to get a job at walmart without insurance, what makes you think they should spend money in insurance. Their goal is to maximize profits not to be a health insurance provider.

Finally, it's absurd to say that the public option will eliminate employer funded health insurance. That maybe true but that's because it would lead to single payer.

lisa said...

who shops at WAlmart? Many people who don't have alot of money.People who can't afford to membership to Costco or Sam's Club an don't have the budget to shop in bulk.

Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

I said *I* don't shop at Walmart, that doesn't mean I don't *go* to Walmart with people who shop there. I'll admit, I let my girlfriend drag me shopping with her sometimes. But when she stops at Walmart and asks if I need to get anything I always say "no thanks, I'll stop by Meijer on my way home, since its cheaper".

Anonymous said...

And frankly, your blanket statement that everything at Walmart is always cheaper implies a little fanboy-ism. Makes me wonder if you agree more with the politics of the Waltons than the business model of their stores.

mike volpe said...

It's not fan boy ism. You can't say that they put everyone else out of business and then not acknowledge why. Walmart has mastered the economic rule of the concept of economies of scale. They buy in bulk, they sell in bulk, and their margins are razor thin. That's it. I don't know what the Waltons politics are but I do know that he mastered the science of economies of scale.

As for the other comment, you're being ridiculous. The Walmart proposed in chicago will be 150,000 square feet. To suggest that you stop by and know that things are cheaper at Meijer is absurd. You couldn't possibly know something like this without examining the prices side by side and that would take you months.