Let us first say that this newspaper is not a huge fan of much that gets broadcast on public television. We agree with many critics that it skews way far to the left on many issues on a number of its programs.
However, every so often, a program airs that, regardless oneâ€™s political stance, hits the ball out of the stadium. In a rebroadcast of an episode (last night) originally aired November 2004, Frontline looked at and asked, â€œWal-Mart, is it good for America?â€ It left no doubt about the answer.
As one watched, it was very easy to tell just how intimidated those who deal with Wal-Mart are. You could see it in their eyes and their measured responses. You could also detect not too far beneath the surface the level of resentment that exists, yet the fear of truly speaking oneâ€™s mind. One example was the interview with the CEO of Kentucky Derby Hosiery. Forced to dance to Wal-Martâ€™s tune, he acknowledged that if he wanted to do continued business with it, he would have to move manufacturing operations overseas, more specifically, China. There, with Chinaâ€™s undervalued currency and cheap labor force, Wal-Martâ€™s profit margin soars, upwards as much as 80 – 90 percent.
Look what it did to Rubbermaid, a company that resisted. In 1994, Fortune magazine named Rubbermaid Americaâ€™s most-admired company. By 2004, it was gone, bought out by a rival. Rubbermaid executives had no hesitation pointing out the cause of its decline: Wal-Mart.
Prior to Wal-Martâ€™s aggressive expansion in the 1980s and 90s, Rubbermaid sold to thousands of retailers. By 1994, the majority of its sales were to â€œbig boxâ€ retailers; the majority of those sales were to Wal-Mart. When the prices for resin (a key ingredient in plastic) rose sky-high, Rubbermaid was forced to pass on that cost. Wal-Mart refused to pay, telling Rubbermaid, â€œtoo bad, but itâ€™s not our problem.â€ Then Wal-Mart yanked a majority of Rubbermaidâ€™s products from its store shelves. Rubbermaid never recovered. Consequently, more than 1,000 jobs were lost when the company shut down its manufacturing plant. Ten years later, in 2004, Fortune magazine named Wal-Mart as Americaâ€™s most admired business.
Yet if a business fights back, Wal-Mart comes at those business with the force of a tidal wave.
One of the few television manufacturers remaining in the country filed a complaint against China for dumping — the act of deliberately selling goods at a loss in order to drive out competition and then take almost total control of that market. Guess whose side of the legal battle Wal-Mart took?
Compare Wal-Martâ€™s strategies to the tactics communism used — particularly the brand employed by the former Soviet Union.
There is but one way. The Wal-Mart way. There was but one form of government supposedly best-suited for the masses: Communism.
Dissent is not allowed, let alone encouraged. Try getting permission interviewing most Wal-Mart employees; better still, try interviewing employees. There is such a fear that â€œBig Brotherâ€ is watching that most wonâ€™t say anything, lest they lose their jobs. Itâ€™s not until they leave its employ that theyâ€™ll open up. The same situation existed living under communism. Not until they reached the sanctity of the United States would many refugees of communism speak.
Wal-Mart treats its vendors as serfs. The Soviet Union treated eastern Europe as its vassals. Protestors and â€œRefuseniksâ€ were exiled to gulags if not â€œliquidated.â€ Vendors such as Rubbermaid were forced out of business and had to liquidate its holdings.
Get the picture? Remember it when the Wal-Mart Superstore in east Lincoln comes up before a vote.