Wal-Mart Expansion Not at the Top of My Wish-List
Tuesday, December 12, 20063 Comments
Newly elected Councilors Vicki Beard and Ian Findlay are willing to consider the application, but worry about already increasing traffic problems around the Wal-Mart store. Karen Farbridge, who’s 2000 election campaign pitted her as being vehemently opposed to a Wal-Mart in Guelph, says that application will be considered objectively, but traffic and noise issues must be considered first.
Despite the need for more grocery retail in the area surrounding Woodlawn and Woolwich, I am hesitant, to say the least, about this possible expansion. I also do not live close to a grocery store, but it is not hard to get to one. Here we go again with what Guelph residents will call the “convenience” factor. Everyone is so busy with work, school and family that they want to get all their needs met in one store. I think we have lost sight of the value of small businesses, and markets. When a mother with only 20 minutes to do her shopping goes to Wal-Mart, she may come out having saved time and money by getting everything in one store, but where did her money go?
By shopping at local businesses, we have the power to ensure that our money is put back into Guelph’s economy. Needless to say, I get pleasure shopping at independent retailers because I know that by doing so I am helping improve the livelihood of the business owner. Those who own Market Fresh, Planet Bean, the Attic, and other quaint stores in Guelph, rely on the business of local consumers. Giving twenty dollars to Wal-Mart only helps to improve the livelihood of those at the top of the corporation.
Workers will not be paid more, store managers will continue to be overworked, prices will continue to go down, and foreign workers will continue being paid pennies to make our clothing. In 2004, 7 cents of every dollar spent in an American store was spent at a Wal-Mart. With sales of over $300 billion per year (likely to top $1 trillion per year within a decade), and more than 5000 “mega stores” worldwide, the heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton (who died in 1992) own 39% of the company, making them twice as wealthy as the family of Bill Gates. Wal-Mart’s profits rose from $33 billion a year in 1991 to $191 billion in 2001. The corporation is also the largest employer, despite its poverty-level wages.
Although Wal-Mart has perfected the art of lowering prices while increasing profit, it comes at the cost of substandard labour conditions for their 1.5 million “associates”. For instance, twenty-eight hours per week is considered full-time employment. Typically, department managers would schedule their own staff’s hours, but now there is a scheduling program run off at Wal-Mart HQ in Bentonville AK, where a computer schedules all Wal-Mart employees based on typical store and consumer trends. This leads to some employees being overworked, since someone has to cover areas where not enough staff is scheduled.
Work schedules change frequently with this new system, making everyday life for those at the bottom difficult, leading many to simply quit. Turnover at Wal-Mart is 35 per cent per year for full-time employees and 56 per cent for part-time. These high turnover rates lead to inadequate training—mostly done on a computer—and managers being short-handed for staff.
Having worked at a Wal-Mart store for about two years, I was made to work off-the clock, I was paid a low wage, had a very difficult time receiving sufficient hours, and as a the cherry on top, I was made to do a “Wal-Mart Cheer” in the morning and at night. Imagine a large room with 50 underpaid, overworked and unhappy workers singing Wal-Mart’s praises.
Guelph lost the fight, and Wal-Mart was able to enter our town. But now Guelphites are left with an even tougher question: Do you want to support this retail giant and its practices? Just because they’re here doesn’t mean we have to give up.