Friday, February 11, 2005

Wal-Mart: Following In The Proud Footsteps of the Tobacco, Beer and Petroleum Industries

The headlines are somewhat amusing. The real story is anything but...

Headline on Page B1 of the print edition of the Washington Post today:

Wal-Mart Chief Defends Closing Unionized Store

Continuing headline on Page B3:

Wal-Mart Continues Campaign to Improve Image


This is the story that you may already have heard of. Instead of reaching an agreement with employees who voted to unionize a Canadian Wal-Mart, the company has decided to close the store.
The chief executive of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. yesterday defended the retailer's decision to close a Canadian store after its employees voted to form a union, saying demands from negotiators would have forced an already unprofitable store to hire 30 more people and abide by inefficient work rules.
"You can't take a store that is a struggling store anyway and add a bunch of people and a bunch of work rules that cause you to even be in worse shape," H. Lee Scott Jr. said.

In his first interview since Wal-Mart announced it would close the store in Jonquiere, Quebec, Scott said Wal-Mart saw no upside to the higher labor costs and refused to cede ground to the union for the sake of being "altruistic."

"It doesn't work that way," he said.

The Quebec store would have been the first Wal-Mart store to unionize. The giant company has vigorously fought unionizing attempts. After workers in the fresh meat section of a Texas Wal-Mart voted to unionize in 2000, Wal-Mart eliminated meatcutter jobs companywide, and started selling pre-wrapped meat.

Scott announced that Wal-Mart has begun "a campaign to tell community and elected leders about its operations and policies." And where are they looking for examples of how to run the P.R. campaign?
Scott, who has worked at Wal-Mart since 1979 and became chief executive of the 3,000-store chain in 2000, said he has studied how major companies in the tobacco, beer and petroleum industries have weathered intense criticism.

Great. They're trying to improve their image, so they've chosen the lung cancer, alcoholism and Bhopal industries as their role models?


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