Honey vs. Wal-Mart

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April 1, 2015 · Posted in Notes from Above Ground 







By Honey van Blossom

(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste)

Yesterday a young East Indian woman rattled the metal screen that locks in front of my door.   She said she was there to talk about helping children break the cycle of poverty.   She held up a brochure with pictures of children on it. I said, No. I’m not listening to this. She said they had a website. I closed the door.

Tonight a young Asian woman rattled the screen. She was there to help children break the cycle of poverty. She held the brochure up.

I told her if you want to break the cycle of poverty, work for a living wage for their parents.   Charity is insulting. Helping children break the cycle of poverty is blaming the children.

Last year, I advised low-income working parents at the Pittsburg Courthouse library.   A full-time manager with an MBA at a big box store made $1500 a month.  He had custody of his two children. Rent in Pittsburg is $1500 a month. The other parents made $900 a month. They got food stamps.   Food stamps subsidized the retail stores so they could pay low wages. Section 8 housing vouchers subsidized landlords so they could find someone to pay $1500 a month in Pittsburg, Antioch and Bay Point, and to get a voucher – that’s like winning the lottery. Often, the apartments they lived in had no heat, no air conditioning, and black mold.

The men felt like failures but mostly women came in for advice. The incidence of mental illness in their families was high.   One woman had two schizophrenic children and one with bipolar disorder. The Department of Child Support Services was unable to get support from their father. He was also indigent.

Fifty-seven percent of Wal-Mart’s US workforce is female. In Dukes v. Wal-Mart — the largest class action gender discrimination lawsuit in U.S. history — 1.5 million female employees accused Wal-Mart of discrimination in promotions, pay and job assignments. The case included 120 affidavits relating to 235 stores. When the Supreme Court heard the case in 2011, it ruled that “[e]ven if every single one of these accounts is true, that would not demonstrate that the entire company operate[s] under a general policy of discrimination.”

In six years as a member of the Wal-Mart board of directors — between 1986 and 1992 — Hillary Clinton remained silent as the world’s largest retailer waged a major campaign against labor unions seeking to represent store workers. I saw her on television briefly before I changed the channel. She was decrying the gender discrimination in Silicon Valley.

In 1978, the oil industry in California underwrote the “grass roots” campaign for Proposition 13. There had also been on that ballot a measure to limit taxes for homeowners but not for commercial properties. That proposition failed. One of the consequences of Proposition 13 is that local governments lack enough income to pay for services. To pay for those services, municipalities allowed big box stores like Wal-Mart and automobile sales businesses to build on former agricultural land because they provided high sales taxes.

At one time, the California Environmental Quality Act allowed the public to request an Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) on economic consequences of local government land use decisions. In 1992, on behalf of the Mendocino Environmental Center in Ukiah, I requested an EIR for a proposed City approval of a Conditional Use Permit to allow Wal-Mart to build in land zoned agricultural.

Wal-Mart provided an EIR with an economic study. Their economist stated in that report that Ukiah would experience a net job loss of 83 jobs, some in agriculture but most in the small family owned stores – the pharmacy, the bookstore, the grocery stores, the clothing store, and the appliance store. He also came to a public meeting and said this. One of the speakers for Wal-Mart admitted that they initially sold pharmaceuticals at a low price and then, after the local store went out of business, Wal-Mart raised its prices.

Most of the people in Ukiah ended up supporting the Conditional Use Permit on the ground Wal-Mart created jobs. Others supported it because they felt they could save money. One woman stood up at the meeting and said that in a local business, she had to pay $2.50 for a cookie tin that Wal-Mart sold for $1.93. She received a round of enthusiastic applause.





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