February, 2006

The Empire Strikes Back…

Wal-Mart has been at the brink of attacks for years by community organizations, unions, politicians and every day people who all hold the same harsh feelings towards the billion dollar company… And they finally seem to care. Last week Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott adressed an array of concerns which begged the question why the largest employer in the world could not provide an adequete health care plan or any benefits for their employees. “We know our benefits at Wal-Mart Stores are not perfect…” Scott told the National Governors Association, Wal-Mart now plans to open Health-Clinics throughout the country and has a new Health-Care initiative…The new plan which is now in affect, calls for employees to pay 27 dollars a month and in return recieve 3 visits to the doctor every calender year. Using this plan would actually hurt Wal-Mart employees more than help them, financially it would make more sense not to use it. The plan is criticized to be a PR front to make it appear that Wal-Mart is providing health care to more employees, but this plan is simply ridiculous. Scott has also told senators he is willing to work towards lighten the extremley high tax created by the thousands of employees who rely on State Medicaid. Read the NY Times article here

Wal-Mart's new look, same old habits…

Wal-Mart’s new campaign to change it’s image is underway. If you have watched any television in the last week you might have come across their new ads which steer towards a completley different direction from their previous advertisements. Their new ads show higher priced items such as “High Definition TV’s” or “Designer Clothes” with their new slogan “The more you save, the more you smile” Trying to become more ‘hip’ and appeal to the young-adult demographic they steer away from their smiley ads. The smiley ads with their discount message “had almost become a little bit of wallpaper,” says Stephen Quinn, Wal-Mart’s senior vice president of marketing. “Our customers weren’t saying anything new about the brand.” Wal-Mart is planing to re-model at least half of its stores throughout the US in the next 18 monthes, these changes are much needed due to Wal-Mart consistantally missing Wal-Street’s expectations despite their profit rise. The re-modeling breaks down to at least 1,800 stores in the next 18 monthes, plus another 1,500 stores which Wal-Mart plans to open this year throughout America, their main goal is to have every American at least 5 Miles away from a Wal-Mart. The Campaign actually concedes that shoppers do not think of the chain as a destination for fashion, In one print ad a woman arrives at a store looking for eyedrops, to her suprise she discovers smart apparel and loves it, the ad doesnt end with their usual token “Always low-prices” they end with “look beyond the basics”. Beyond basics?? How basic is having Wal-Mart, the largest and one of the most economically successful employers in the entire history of the world providing health-care and a decent wage for employees??? Wal-Mart can change their image all they want, but until they basically start acting like a responsible employer we cannot look beyond the basics.

Fair Share Bill's Second Challenge…

After facing and conquering a Veto in Maryland, the so called “Fair Share Bill”, which forces employers with more than 10,000 employees to spend a minimum of 8 percent on health care, is facing yet another obstacle. Retailers are now very concerned with the recent trend of “Fair Share” laws being passed throughout the country (Maryland, New York City have passed; at least 30 states are drawing bills now). A trade group filed 2 lawsuits Tuesday against the bill to hopefully block the state and local governments from enforcing them. Sandy Kennedy president of Retail Industry Leaders Association (who filed the lawsuits) said “We certainly hope that the other states…will pause and look at what we’re doing in Maryland and Suffolk County [New York] and consider that these are unwise and unlawful laws…” This is a bill which requires companies with more than 10,000 employees in the state to spend at least 8 percent of payroll on health care or contribute the difference to the state Medicaid fund. Wal-Mart is the only company in Maryland that fits the size and does not meet the 8 percent quota. Most Wal-Mart employees rely on taxpayer-funded Medicaid Health Coverage. It simply does not make sense for the worlds largest company and employer to not pay at the minimum 8% for employees health coverage. The lawsuit however, argues that state and local governments are not permitted to mandate levels of health care coverage by private companies, both suits seek federal judges to grant injuctions to prevent the enforcement of the laws. The bill is argued to “arbitarily single out one company for discriminatory treatment” That statement alone acknowledges Wal-Marts mistreatment of workers, though other states are currently asking for more than 8 percent towards healthcare. Wal-Mart endless wallet is simply trying to undo what peoples elected representatives enforced, becoming a responsible employer.

  • In other news Wal-Mart Exec Lee Scott announced that Wal-Mart plans to open up 1500 stores in the next year. Their solution to the problem is obvious, to grow, grow, grow and grow. We need to keep putting pressure on Wal-Mart through the media and other local demonstrations…

The Quinnipiac Poll…

There has been much news concerning the recent Quinnipiac University Poll results which read that New York City registered voters are welcome to the idea of Wal-Mart in New York. Dispite the terrible press, overwhelming statistics on how hurtful Wal-Mart is to surrounding communities, increased crime, mistreatment of workers, and the degradation women, New York City registered voters by a 51 – 37 percent margin support Wal-Mart opening stores in New York City. Even respondents from union households support Wal-Mart 47 – 37 percent. The entire poll is available here Quinnipiac Poll.
The extremely alarming news has caused much stir especially since the council and community board of the Bronx just banned Wal-Mart from the soon to be newly renovated Bronx Terminal Market. The NY SUN broke down the poll in Mondays article heres how the bouroughs all poll’d.

  • The New York Sun, only 39% of Manhattan residents said they supported a Wal-Mart in the city,
  • But 64% of Bronx residents said they would welcome the retailer.
  • In Staten Island, 58% supported Wal-Mart opening.
  • Brooklyn and Queens, 52% supported it.

Pat Purcell, Director of Organizing responded, “Do you think New Yorkers are aware of the wage and labor practices of any other retailers?” Purcell asked. “No other retailer would even need to do a poll. If they did, every number would be in the 90% approval range.”

Bronx Terminal Market Yes, Wal-Mart No, BJ's still Maybe…

The New York City Council overwhelmingly approved a $400 million plan to redevelop the Bronx Terminal Market into a 1 million-square-foot retail center, which is expected to generate more than 5,000 new jobs. Sounds terrific at first though the victims of this deal however, are the prior merchants who were offered a ‘take it or leave it’ package as mentioned in the New York Times Article.

Ralph Lelia, the owner of Lamp and S Fruit Producers, is among the vendors for about 25 businesses at the decaying market. They must move to make way for a new multilevel retail center and garage.

A major win for the community although was the developers signed off on a ‘Community Board Agreement’. An agreement that needed to be signed or the council would not approve the mall. One of the points of emphasis in the agreement was strictly No Wal-Mart, a huge win for the community. Here is an outline of the rest of the agreement…

  • Set aside 18,000 square feet of retail space for local businesses
  • Developers must train and provide jobs for the local community and borough residents
  • If BJ’s does in fact enter the mall, Related Companies has agreed to pay half the membership fees for 1,000 neighborhood familes
  • Guarantee residents who use food assistance programs will be able to use their subsides to buy groceries there
  • No Wal-Mart

See the NY1 News Report Here

Women sue Wal-Mart….Again

Women sue Wal-Mart over access to emergency contraception
Associated Press February 1, 2006BOSTON —

Three Massachusetts women backed by pro-abortion rights groups sued Wal-Mart on Wednesday, saying the retail giant violated state law by failing to stock emergency contraception pills in its pharmacies.
The suit filed in Suffolk Superior Court seeks a court order compelling Wal-Mart to stock the so-called “morning after pill,” in its 44 Massachusetts pharmacies.
“Wal-Mart apparently thinks it is above the law,” said Sam Perkins, a lawyer for the three plaintiffs.
A new state law that took effect late last year following heated debate on Beacon Hill requires all hospitals to provide the morning-after pill to rape victims. It also allows pharmacists to dispense the pill without a prescription, but does not require it.
Instead, the suit, backed by Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts and Jane Doe Inc., argues Wal-Mart is violating a provision of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Law that requires pharmacies to provide all “commonly prescribed medicines.”
“Massachusetts pharmacies are required to stock all medications that are commonly prescribed to meet the usual needs of the community,” Perkins said.
A spokesman for Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart did not immediately a call from The Associated Press on Wednesday.
A company spokeswoman, Sarah Clark, told The Boston Globe that Wal-Mart doesn’t stock the morning-after pill for “business reasons,” but she declined to elaborate.
The plaintiffs are Katrina McCarty of Somerville, Julie Battel of Boston, and Rebekah Gee, of Boston. All three were turned away when they tried to buy emergency contraception pills at area Wal-Marts.
Some abortion opponents believe emergency contraception is a form of abortion because it blocks the fertilized egg from being implanted on the uterine wall.