Too Mutch

...a safe place to dance with ideas, play with theology, and re-create a life implicated by God

Monday, February 19, 2007

N8's Questions

My compadre NateDog asked a couple of good questions I'll try to answer, though I have to be honest. My motivation is waning tonite...

1. After doing a bit of research, N8 learned that Walmart adds more jobs to a community than it forces out. The research my book shares says is this. Initially, there is a flurry of new jobs--almost all of them created by the 300 or so jobs at the Walmart that is opening. After 5 years, the net benefit of jobs is down to 50 retail jobs. And some additional research shows another 20 jobs are lost to local wholesalers that have been squeezed out. 5 year difference--30 retail jobs. Plus, 4 local retailers have closed down completely, while others have had to lay people off.

But maybe you want to argue "well 30 is still a positive number!" Two additional points need to be made. 1) we haven't considered the loss of supplier and manufacturing jobs. And there are plenty of those being lost. Sure, other companies are taking advantage of China's labor, but Walmart has perfected it and has been a huge catalyst. 2) what kind of jobs are the 30? Low end retail jobs. No benefits. Lower wages. Forced overtime without pay. Being locked in a store beyond your work hours. Is this good for a community?

In the end, a community can expect to maybe 300 Walmart jobs, which are not the worth writing home about. 270 jobs have been lost from the community, likely from retailers that provided a better working environment for their employees--better wages, flexible schedules, better hours, more benefits. Hmmm?

And there is more. Because Walmart pays less and offers fewer benefits (even when they offer health benefits, it is only for the employee, not the family), it really ends up being a financial drain on the community. Fishman reports in his book that one study demonstrated that while the poverty rate in America was dropping from 13% to 10.7% on average, counties that had a Walmart found that their decrease was 10% less than a county that did not have a Walmart. So, we have to ask ourselves, are "Always Lower Prices" worth 30 mediocre jobs and a higher rate of poverty among our community?

It complicated isn't it?? I haven't fully decided how best to live in light of what I'm learning. N8 also asks if there is anything positive we can say about Walmart. Absolutely. The article I posted this weekend seems to indicate that they are taking some positive steps. Are they real steps? For the sake of this world, I hopes so. Hasn't Walmart done a tremendous amount to increase efficiency? It can't be stressed enough that Walmart has wielded its power for the good of the retail, manufacturing and supply trades. The book does cover a number of stories to demonstrate the positive and negative Walmart effects.

I highly recommend the book. Then, maybe you'd like to read another book with me called, "The Small Mart Revolution"--a book about how small businesses are finding success in the face of the big box stores.

How will you decide what to do?
Is it about...
economic savings?

It's complicated. Please commit with me to NOT burying my head in the sand.


At 4:56 PM, Blogger Jack said...

Hey Mutch, good stuff on Wal-Mart. The other issue is that how many jobs Wal-Mart adds/takes away depends on where they go. In rural areas, there are more jobs added than taken away, the more "urban" you get, the less jobs are added.


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