Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, December 03, 2007

Target Roundup

All these malcontents, as I call them, I’m beginning to think of them as elitist. I don’t think they speak for the average person. The local people say, "We want them."
- Dr. Kenneth Stone, author of studies on the effects of Wal-Mart Supercenters on Iowa and Mississippi counties, on Wal-Mart opponents
The front page of Monday's The Wall Street Journal reported that Wal-Mart, with profit margins still good but down, is encountering politically muscular resistance in its latest push into Northeastern urban centers. It quoted Mayor Thomas Merino of Boston as saying, "Wal-Mart does not suit the clientele we have in the city of Boston. They don't pay wages that are sufficient. Their benefit structure is poor. I don't need employers like that in our city."

That was as thoroughly arrogant and snobbish as any public pronouncement I've encountered since Barbara Bush last spoke. The mayor was presuming to speak for low-income people in his constituency. He was presuming to declare them not interested either in Wal-Mart's discounted staples or its jobs.

Then the article reported that the mayor was actively courting Target, which is Wal-Mart with a varnished veneer, and which has come under similar criticism for its wage and benefit structure.

That's pure snobbery against Wal-Mart...This Wal-Mart backlash may have lashed back entirely too far
- Longtime Wal-Mart critic John Brummett
In contrast to this image, however, critics say that in terms of wages and benefits, working conditions, sweatshop-style foreign suppliers, and effects on local retail communities, big box Target stores are very much like Wal-Mart, just in a prettier package.
- Kari Lydersen, "Target: Wal-Mart Lite"

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