Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Lawsuits and Straitjackets

I continue to be astounded at the inability or unwillingness of PARD members to use simple logic. For example, a letter in today’s’ Moscow-Pullman Daily News from Leilani Alamillo, wife of PARD Labor Outreach Coordinator and WSU Comparative Ethnic Studeies Professor Jose Alamillo, who used a book called “Selling Women Short: The Landmark Battle for Workers’s Rights at Wal-Mart” in one of his classes last semester:
I have frequently been asked the question, “Why is there so much opposition to Wal-Mart?” The answer is that the company is too big.

Tom Forbes wrote a letter to the editor (Opinion, Dec. 12) stating Wal-Mart is no different from other companies. He compared a lawsuit penalizing Wal-Mart for $172 million with similar lawsuits from Starbucks for $18 million and Rite Aid for $25 million. But look at the numbers, $18 million and $25 million are not even close to $172 million. Wal-Mart is the No. 1 retailer in the world. It has too much power over the suppliers and has forced the closure of businesses that don’t play by its rules.

Wal-Mart has grown so large it is abusing its power. I wouldn’t mind if Wal-Mart was a store that I could choose to not shop at. My fear is that Wal-Mart will become a monopoly in Pullman and limit my choices.

I also have been asked the question, “If Target was planning to build in Pullman would there be the same opposition?” The answer is no. I think Pullman would welcome Target with open arms. Wal-Mart cannot be compared to any other company. Because of its size and power, it is in a class of its own.
First of all, there is not “so much opposition to Wal-Mart” in Pullman. Do you see Judy Krueger and Gary Johnson on the City Council? I rest my case.

And the company is “too big”? How about the U.S. government? They get sued more than Wal-Mart. Does that make it “too big”? In that case, welcome to the Republican Party! I wonder what operating system Ms. Alamillo uses on her computer? Windows XP maybe? Is Microsoft “too big”? The U.S. government and the European Union thought so when they filed anti-trust lawsuits against it. Does she frequent Starbucks? They have over 7,000 stores in the U.S., 3 in Pullman alone. McDonald’s? 2 in Pullman. Let’s petition against them for closing down Burger King!! And who is Ms. Alamillo to determine what is “too big” anyway? What she really means is that Wal-Mart has been “too successful” without the involvement of labor unions, who get no piece of the pie to support Ms. Alamillo’s liberal Democratic causes. I hope she never owns a business that gets “too big” or “too successful” in someone else’s eyes. Letters like this from PARD only drive more mainstream Pullman residents against them.

I stated in my letter to the editor that Wal-Mart was PROPORTIONATELY no better or worse than any other company. I wasn’t talking about raw numbers, just the fact that other companies violate labor laws too. But since she says look at the numbers, let’s do just that.

The $172 million Wal-Mart lawsuit affected 116,000 current and former California Wal-Mart employees. The $25 million Rite-Aid suit involved 3,000 California managers and assistants. Hmmmm. Let’s see. That’s about $1,500 per Wal-Mart employee versus $8,333 per Rite-Aid employee involved in the respective lawsuits. Wal-Mart doesn’t seem so bad in comparison, now does it? And she states further that Wal-Mart is in a class of its own because of its size and power. Wouldn’t that apply to lawsuits as well? It’s a complete non sequitur. According to her then, we don’t have to be outraged about violations of labor law unless the company is “too big”. If ANY company, large or small, Wal-Mart or not, gets out of line they should be punished.

I challenge her to name ONE supplier that was forced to close SOLELY because of Wal-Mart. Just one. And so what if they try to contain their costs from their suppliers? What successful company doesn’t? A little real-world business experience outside the ivy-covered halls of academe might do some of these PARDners a world of good.

In addition, Wal-Mart fights lawsuits more aggressively and settles less often than most other companies. This, combined with its deep pockets as the world’s largest retailer, explains both the higher number of open suits and higher judgments. Wal-Mart obviously believes that ultimately this will save them money by reducing the number of frivolous litigation brought against them (dozens of lawyers across the United States now specialize in just suing Wal-Mart) and it fits with Sam Walton’s philosophy of “What did we do wrong?” But as you can see, there is a PR price to pay for Wal-Mart’s strategy.

“I wouldn’t mind if Wal-Mart was a store that I could choose to not shop at. My fear is that Wal-Mart will become a monopoly in Pullman and limit my choices. “ What a laughably absurd statement. The problem we have now is that everyone in Pullman is leaving town to shop elsewhere. Why would Ms. Alamillo suddenly not be able to choose not to shop at Wal-Mart? Will there be armed (and presumably non-union) Wal-Mart guards posted at the border with Idaho? Just keep going to the Co-Op, Costco, or wherever. And you talk about “limited choices”? How about ShopKo?? Is that not a monopoly? How about Safeway and Dissmores?? Give me a break.

The only thing Alamillo says that is correct is that Target would be welcomed with open arms. Of course, the putrid hypocrisy of that statement is overwhelming. A Target would have EXACTLY the same SEPA and site plan issues that PARD is now appealing against Wal-Mart (i.e. there will still be traffic and the rain would also fall on Target’s parking lot). This is just PARD’s way of again trying to negotiate their “Anybody but Wal-Mart” position with the town. “Oh, you lame capitalists insist on big boxes. Okay, we promise we won’t fight Target. Just please no rednecky, non-union Wal-Mart”.

This is one of the most pathetic examples of rationalizing an indefensible viewpoint I have ever seen. These “smart-growthers” who are so against “suburban sprawl” and “crass consumerism” are now trying to pander it to us in a different form. I’d respect them so much more if they just stuck with their guns and remained dead set against ANY big box store. The PARD “Target Gambit” (played previously by T.V. Reed and Janet Damm) just proves they are the mindless running lapdogs of the UFCW and SEIU.

Ms.Alamillo does not address my point about sales tax leakage. No one in PARD has an answer for that. What supreme arrogance. Who in the hell are Ms. Alamillo and her comrades to deny us our desperately needed sales tax revenue and determine where we can or cannot shop? Who are they to single out one company that they don’t like because of their radical ideology? I’m sick of them all and I can’t wait until they have to eat their words and skulk around our new Supercenter.


April E. Coggins said...

"I wouldn’t mind if Wal-Mart was a store that I could choose to not shop at. My fear is that Wal-Mart will become a monopoly in Pullman and limit my choices."

How is limiting MY choices an answer to limiting HER choices? Her solution for her fear of a monopoly is to protect current monopolies. Something went wrong when she took Economics 101.

April E. Coggins said...

The other thing that PARD ignores is all the stores that have opened and closed just in the past year. I may be more aware than most people since I work downtown but it is heart breaking. We do not have the healthy, vibrant downtown they so desperately want to portray as needing protection. They certainly can't blame that on a Wal-Mart in Pullman. The most likely problem is that Pullman shoppers are taking their dollars out of town.

Sarcastic Housewife #1 said...

My favorite part in her sentence stating a Target would be fine. And this is because they aren't big, mean, bad corporation, right? Please this had to be one of the most illogical letters I've read in awhile.