Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Should the Branch Provide Wal-Mart Gift Cards?

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 08:  The Wal-Mart logo i...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Mention Wal-Mart and the debate starts.
What will the Supreme Court rule on whether women working for Wal-Mart can sue as a class? Should you shop there when their low prices are the result of moving jobs out of the country? When the foreign companies they contract with pay unfair wages, ignore employee safety, or employ unfair labor practices?

Well, we have an issue that confronts our branch directly and the Public Policy Committee wants the branch to revisit it again before we provide our holiday diversity gift cards. Here's the debate -- which should prevail, giving Wal-Mart gift cards which provide recipients great selection and low prices or boycotting Wal-Mart due to their social policies and finding an alternative source for the gift cards?

Here are some members' comments.
Please add your comments below.

From Jean Semilof: Unfortunately, Wal-mart is far from the only company that pays minimum wage and that uses underpaid and exploited workers. If we were to boycott every store and manufacturer that does this  we would would probably be able to buy very few manufactured goods. As Chairman of the Community Service Committee of the Ulster County Board of Realtors, I can say, firsthand, that the local Wal-mart has been outstandingly generous in supporting our many charitable events. 

From Delores LaChance: Do you recall the German woman [Wal-Mart employee in Germany] who did not understand why the Wal-mart workers were having these problems in the US when German employees were not? They were even getting 36 vacation days per year. This is where our government fails its citizens; not so in many European states. From the looks of some current government antics in support of corporations, it can only get worse before getting better. 

From Susan Hirsch: Film was very good -  lots of issues raised, some of which were new to me.  Each summer we spend a week at Chautauqua...  A few year's ago the theme was "the world of work." One of the speakers addressed the low wages and lack of worker's rights at Wal-Mart.  His parting comment was one I took to heart.  He said he was in total sympathy with the need for people to shop at Wal-Mart if on a tight budget.  But, if Wal-Mart shopping is not a necessity then speak with our pocketbooks and go elsewhere.  I do not shop there.   

In response to the question raised elsewhere about gift certificates we gives to Wal-Mart - by all means my vote is a loud and clear:stop!  Gift certificates can be given to the mall or to one of the supermarkets.  The dollar will not go as far - but sometimes trade-offs must be made. The lowest price should not be our goal.  All the government economists have yet to be able to balance low cost and livable wages.  But, unfortunately, only the government can regulate effective long term policies (higher minimum wages, changes in import-export policy, etc.)  But since there will not be effective changes on this level in the foreseeable future,  it is up to the individual to vote with shopping decisions for whatever limited effect that will have.

From Carole Leib: In this country, it is NOT a crime to be successful.  Wal-mart pays into SS and has a health insurance plan for its employees.  They are paid AT LEAST minimum wage.  How much should people be paid to stock shelves?  Walmart hires disabled people.  They have a clean store and good merchandise.  Because they are big, they can buy in volume and sell at a (generally) lower price than their competitors.  THAT IS NOT A CRIME.  Other large chains also buy in volume, but are not challenged like Walmart because they don’t pass the savings on to their customers:  they pocket them.  Walmart treats its customers very well – and, except to isolated incidents that we hear of from time to time, treats its employees very well, also.  Think back to the furor when the mega-malls were being built.  There was an uproar that it would kill small business.  Today, how many people (other than me) still want to do away with the malls?
Walmart represents progress.  You may not like it, but they function within the law.  If you want to stop them, you need to change the laws – but that could have disastrous results.  The law protects Walmart as well as us.

 What do you think?

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1 comment:

  1. I feel strongly that we should boycott Wal-Mart due to their antisocial policies and find an alternative source for the gift cards.