Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Wal-Mart Taking Over the Blogosphere, Too?!?

Taken from The Black Commentator

Ok, the blogosphere is mostly free so there's really nothing for Wal-Mart to take over, but then like a lot else the company does it doesn't have a problem with abusing the blogosphere as we find in an interesting article in today's NY Times by Michael Barbaro, Wal-Mart Enlists Bloggers in P.R. Campaign. Apparently Wal-Mart's trying to buff up its image and is using blogs in its campaign. I guess desperate situations warrant desperate measures, but then you have to wonder about a company that has to spoon feed bloggers with lines for their blogs in order to help them put a shine on a company that deserves an awful lot of the bad press that it gets. What I find especially interesting is how the corrective effort is essentially focused on PR, vice actually trying to do something positive about the legitimate problems people have with the way it treats its employees, all in the name of reducing cost.

I appreciate how the lowest cost is important to a lot of people, but I also appreciate that when the lowest cost comes on the backs of people who work to help provide that low cost that there's something fundamentally wrong with that. I guess in a strictly libertarian or Adam Smith sort of way of looking at the world this is just the cost of capitalism, but in point of fact it's not just those working for Wal-Mart who get shafted, it's everyone who pays taxes. When a Wal-Mart employee has to go on public assistance, and many do, or are unable to afford healthcare and have to apply for healthcare financial assistance, it's the taxpayer who gets to pick up the bill. Yes, you paid less for that cheapo Wal-Mart product, but that's just less money out of your pocket at the checkout counter, not in lower taxes or being able to use your taxes for something other than subsidizing Wal-Mart's piss poor healthcare program. Now of course we can get into a very good discussion regarding whether an employer should be responsible for healthcare, and good arguments can be made for why they shouldn't, but the de facto system now is that the employer is the principal healthcare provider and Wal-Mart, in the interest of cost efficiency, shucks that responsibility everywhere it can, though with recent legislation apparently not in Maryland and a few other states with similar legislation designed to hold Wal-Mart accountable.

I don't shop at Wal-Mart primarily because I don't support how it treats its employees, especially in contrast to a company like Costco which has a business model that's similar to Wal-Mart's but pays its employees well and provides them with adequate healthcare. Yes, Wal-Mart is not the only company guilty of treating its employees poorly, and very likely it's not the most egregious company in this regard. But it's the largest, it's the one with the most press, and maybe by pushing it into correcting for treating its employees like anything else it can wring a cost reduction from, a standard for employment can be established in this country that's just, equitable, and respectful of the average American worker who, on the whole, just wants to do a good job, get paid a decent wage, and be treated with the same respect and consideration most of us take for granted, or at least should.


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