Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"Wal-Mart protest stalls out"

Poor PARDners. You could almost feel sorry for them if they weren't such arrogant, elitist jerks. From today's Lewiston Tribune:
A scheduled protest at the Wal-Mart store here failed to materialize Monday after members of a "sweatshop tour" were delayed in travel, an organizer said.

But a man from India who makes pants, and a Colombian woman who cuts flowers for a supplier to Wal-Mart said later they're touring America to expose how Wal-Mart's low prices come at high human cost.

Members of the media had been alerted last week a "walking press conference" tour of the Moscow store would underscore "horrendous working conditions" experienced by employees of Wal-Mart's overseas suppliers.

The demonstration, in conjunction with a panel discussion Monday night, were sponsored by the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development (PARD) and three Washington State University groups.

The two workers, Beatriz Fuentes, of Colombia, and Kotagarahalli Ramaiah Jayaram, of India, were ready to escort the media through the Moscow Wal-Mart and identify products made under "unacceptable pay and working conditions," according to a PARD news release.

But Jennifer Holder, public affairs manager for Wal-Mart in Seattle, said employees at the Moscow store had been told to not let the tour take place. She said Wal-Mart and PARD are currently locked in a legal dispute over the proposed construction of a super center in Pullman.

"We are in litigation and it would be inappropriate to comment," Holder said. She said no one had alerted Wal-Mart to the planned tour. Members of the media had been asked to meet at 2 p.m. outside the Moscow Wal-Mart.

Contacted about 30 minutes later, PARD spokesman T.V. Reed of Pullman apologized for the delay and said there might be an attempt to reschedule. He said Fuentes and Jayaram were driving and had apparently been delayed by bad weather. The two have been part of a "Wal-Mart Workers Speaking Tour" throughout Washington and Oregon. The tour was organized by the International Labor Rights Fund.

The scheduled panel discussion was sponsored by the Chicana/o Latino/a Student Center, the Progressive Student Union and the Comparative Ethnic Studies Department at WSU.

"The workers have traveled here to hold Wal-Mart publicly accountable for the human rights violations its policies encourage and abet in its supply chain and retail stores," said a statement on PARD's Web site.

Holder said the store is private property and has a right to prohibit demonstrations, especially since PARD is locked in a legal dispute with Wal-Mart. Told about Wal-Mart's stance, Fuentes and Jayaram decided to be interviewed off the store's property.

Trina Tacco, spokeswoman for the Labor Rights Fund, said her organization and worker representatives have successfully conducted walking tours at other Wal-Mart stores throughout the country.

Fuentes said the plantation where she works is closing after she and others organized a union to improve wages and benefits. She said, through an interpreter, that Wal-Mart refused to purchase flowers for prices that would support increased worker wages. She said the plantation used to employ 1,600 workers, but now has 150. A complete closure was announced recently.

Jayaram said he's part of a 32-member team that makes pants at a garment factory in India. He and the others get paid $2 a day each. They can produce about 600 pairs of pants in an 8- to 10-hour day, he said. He carried a pair of similar pants with him on the tour. The Wal-Mart price, according to a store label, was $12.75.

Rather than encourage a boycott of Wal-Mart, Jayaram said he wanted to encourage Americans to pressure the company to charge more so that everyone, including the workers who make the garments, can make more money.

PARD, on the other hand, continues to encourage a boycott of a Wal-Mart Supercenter, if it's built in Pullman.

Reed said he and other PARD members have collected more than 10,000 signatures from people supporting a boycott. He said 6,500 of the signatures came from Pullman residents. PARD has appealed a court decision that would allow construction of a super center.

Wal-Mart, meanwhile, announced last year that it had abandoned, at least temporarily, plans to build a super center in Moscow.

However, as funny as this story is, it begs several questions:

Why does the Tribune, and reporter David Johnson in particular, lavish so much coverage on PARD? Why cover an event that didn't happen?

If PARD couldn't get into Wal-Mart, why not go to ShopKo? ShopKo has plenty of "sweatshop" made goods. Just look at some of the clothing labels next time you go in the store.

I'm very disappointed that this didn't go off. I hope it is rescheuduled (although forewarned is forearmed now for Wal-Mart). The people of Pullman need to see the ugly, radical truth behind PARD.

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Barenjager said...

This is beautiful. Unions loose everywhere they taint the landscape as evidenced by the Beatriz Fuentes story about the plantation she worked at.

It also shows what a bunch of gullible yahoos PARDners are and what gadflys their fellow travelers have turned out to be.

Delayed in driving by the weather? Yesterday? Really? Where were they driving in from? Point Barrow? I-90 and US-195 were open all day. There were no closures or significant slowdowns between Moscow/Pullman and Boise, Missoula, Portland, Seattle or Spokane.

I'll bet I know what really delayed them. The "climate" of the area doesn't really support their politics and they didn't want to be "snowed in" by reality. They had to wait for a more carefully controled event to show off their backward, looser causes.

April E. Coggins said...

Why does the media continue to report the thoroughly discredited PARD petition? David Johnson has just helped to further perpetuate a lie.

Tom Forbes said...

Remember April, it's not a lie if you beleive it.

The Tribune has yet to mention ANY support for Wal-Mart in Pullman, despite repeated coverage in all of the other local media, including KLEW TV.

I imagine the powers that be in the L-C Valley want us to continue to spend our money down there.