November 21, 2004

Women vs. Wal-Mart

In Nickel and Dimed a couple years back, Barbara Ehrenreich spent some time working at Wal-Mart. Her conclusions? Wal-Mart is a shitty place to work: no benefits, crappy pay, a domineering management system. Oh, and systemically sexist. Then Wal-Mart got sued for that last one.

The way that Wal-Mart underpays women and doesn't promote them, despite the fact that so many women who work there are supporting their families, is shockingly hostile. As one of the plaintiffs pointed out, "They don't even pay you enough to pay a babysitter." In their company culture, they've always had the idea that to move into management, people have to be willing to relocate. [Uprooting the family] can be tremendously disruptive to families for either men or women. It's clearly something that can be avoided, especially now that there are so many Wal-Marts everywhere. You hardly need to be sent to another state to work at a different Wal-Mart. ... What's disturbing is that Wal-Mart is really profiting from female poverty -- both from its workers and its shoppers. Part of the problem with the Wal-Mart business model is that it requires more poverty in order to grow. They really have no incentive to improve working conditions. If they are lowering living standards everywhere they go, people have no choice but to shop at Wal-Mart.

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