Saturday, November 19, 2005

Wal-Mart: The Movie

I saw the movie last night. Oh, man! Sometimes I feel like such a naif, because most of it surprised me.

I knew that the presence of a Wal-Mart in a small community caused small, locally-owned businesses to close. It would be hard to miss that much, especially in a small town like this one. I didn't know that it is the stated policy of Wal-Mart to close those stores. I didn't know that Wal-Mart sets its health insurance prices so high that the full-time employees can't afford to sign up, and then they encourage the employees instead to rely on state medical-welfare programs. They're using public assistance as their employee "benefit" program, in other words. I didn't know that all those security cameras on the roof and on the light poles in the parking lots aren't for patron security. They're for union busting. One of the camera-array packages that a store can purchase is even called "the union package". I REALLY didn't know the conditions of the Chinese factory workers who make the toys that Wal-Mart so proudly states are "made in the USA". I didn't know that Wal-Mart employees can choose to have money deducted from their paychecks to assist other Wal-mart associates in crisis -and they donated $5 million last year. The Walton family donated.... $6000. And, to save you the trouble of doing the math, if the corporation had put that money in a regular passbook account it would have earned $50,000 interest in that year. So they didn't even contribute as much to the account as the account earned for them as it sat in the bank, until employees needed it.

So where do I go from here? This is the sad part. I think, even as sick as I am about this, I can't swear to you or to myself that I will never darken the door of a Wal-Mart again. I just think that's a promise I couldn't or wouldn't keep -yet.

I can, though, start to reduce my reliance on Wal-Mart and replace it with more ethical alternatives. Just as, when I started to purchase organic food and fair-trade food, I couldn't say, "I will on such-and-such a day cease and desist from buying anything that isn't organic and fairly traded." But I could -and did- say that I would stop buying anything other than fairly traded coffee. One thing. And soon enough, that was easy and no longer causing financial angst. Then I switched to environmentally correct cleaning products, and now that feels normal and easy. I think the biggest category of stuff we get at Wal-Mart is toiletry items -toothpaste, shampoo, etc. I'm going to start whittling away at that category and see what can be done about getting that to zero.

I'm going to give myself a year to get used to the "no Wal-Mart" idea. But it WILL happen.

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