Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"Wal-Mart is bad, but could help Pullman"

Lord knows that I have disagreed with Amelia Veneziano on more than one occasion. But I have to give her full credit for writing this op-ed in today's Daily Evergreen:
There are some stores that are warm and welcoming.

There are some stores that are warm and welcoming. The salespeople are helpful and knowledgeable, the atmosphere inviting and the lighting kind. These are the stores college graduates shop at.

And then there’s Wal-Mart.

It is big, irritating, poorly laid out, employs a borderline-useless floor staff that couldn’t care less, and has lots of items sold at the lowest bottom-line. It’s cheap, cavernous and definitely not a relaxing experience.

But so what? We’re in college. Personally, my wallet’s too flat to buy toothpaste at a friendly neighborhood pharmacy – and I don’t mean Rite-Aid.

I’m no fan of the behemoth that is Wal-Mart. And the Walton family should have huge portions of its income taxed and given back to the employees it underpays and overworks, as seen in the Wal-Mart movie “The High Cost of Low Price” and evident in any conversation with an irritated employee.

It’s a lousy corporation and a poor excuse for a business that has somehow landed itself in the top two on the Fortune 500 list for the past several years. Many lawsuits allege racism and sexism in stores, according to the film.

They are decidedly anti-union, most clearly displayed when the only unionized store was shut down in early 2005, according to a February 2005 report on CNNmoney.com.

I can say it, without a doubt in my mind: Wal-Mart sucks.

But let’s look at this logically, and I don’t mean using Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development logic.

There’s a Wal-Mart across the border in Moscow. It’s small, crowded and packed with stuff. It serves two university communities, plus dozens of rural Washington and Idaho communities.

Idaho minimum wage is just $5.15 an hour – even at minimum wage, employees in Washington will make at least $2 more. Most likely, the majority of employees have no family to support; they’re more worried about paying tuition. They’re not looking at making Wal-Mart into a career. After all, that’s why they’re in college.

But if Wal-Mart is successful in moving to Pullman, many WSU students and likely many Wal-Mart employees who transfer over will make at least $7.63 an hour – Washington’s minimum wage. That’s a big increase.

The community will benefit from this. Employees will make more money that will go back in to the community. More out-of-town traffic will come to shop at Wal-Mart, buying their dog food here in Washington – and paying our sales tax, which is filtered back into our state programs – rather than in Idaho. This is good.

Students will benefit from having a local place to shop. Many students lack cars and are stuck with the often-bare shelves of ShopKo for their laundry detergent. Ignoring the fiscal advantages, wouldn’t all consumers prefer buying their stuff here in town then traipsing into Idaho and enjoying the lovely cow scent Moscow is so famous for?

Pullman is hardly a bastion of cute little shops and unique items. The mom-and-pop store barely exists, at least in the realm Wal-Mart specializes in.
This is Pullman. It’s college. We’re poor and cheap and we can be bought for coffee. We don’t care.

Please, especially my uber-liberal crowd, don’t scream at me. I am no fan of Wal-Mart. I avoid going there unless I really have to. But in a town like Pullman, as a university student, I end up needing its cheap services more than I would like to admit. If only Target would move in, then my life would be super. But alas, no. Wal-Mart is the one that’s interested.

On Monday, PARD announced it would appeal the decision on Wal-Mart to the state court of appeals in Spokane. Lower-court judges have all ruled on behalf of the corporation; it’s becoming inevitable – and Pullman residents and foes of Wal-Mart should realize – that it’s going to happen. Buck up, look on the bright side and enjoy the tax returns
I don't agree that Wal-Mart "sucks", but I greatly appreciate the fact that Veneziano, a WSU Young Democrat officer, uses her logic to see the advantages the rest of us see, and not just talking points from the PARD website.

I'm sure PARD will now demand equal time and get yet another column in the Evergreen, while BREO has never been given even one. If not, look for righteous letters of indignation to start flowing.

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April E. Coggins said...

I wish writers such as this one would appreciate that the people who work for Wal-Mart are members of our community. They live, work, and raise children right here. How does she think it makes them feel to be insulted by smart alec opinion writers? I've talked to some of them and they have told me that such negative and baseless statements about people the who are employed by Wal-Mart are NOT appreciated.

Oh, and about the odor in Moscow, that ain't cows you're smelling.

Paul E. Zimmerman said...

I wonder how smart Veneziano would feel if those "dumb, useless" Walmart workers could be the ones to explain to her that the Moscow Walmart already pays ABOVE our state's minimum wage (income taxes probably take it down further than taxes here, but Walmart doesn't set the tax rates, and they could pay $5.15/hour, but they do not; they pay more).

Attention to detail has never been the strong suit of the Evergreen staff, so I guess we can let that one go. Maybe once the benefits Veneziano cited - and they are real - start to impact her life in a positive manner, she'll feel brave enough to drop the leftist posing she still feels she needs to display for social approval on campus.

It seems that some of them are finally thawing out and learning. I guess we now have our bright side to this whole dog and pony show. :)

April E. Coggins said...

Ah yes, details. How do you suppose the writer joins these two contradictary statements? Wal-Mart "employs a borderline-useless floor staff that couldn’t care less" and "the employees it underpays and overworks." Which is it? Are they hardworking and underpaid or just barely employable?

Paul E. Zimmerman said...

April -

She doesn't. I'm sure that she doesn't even realize the contradiction. :)