Last week, the Pagosa Springs Area Chamber of Commerce---themselves a survivor of sorts, as a result of last year's controversial Visitor Center take-over by the Town Tourism Committee — sponsored a special business-friendly event aimed at retailers hoping to survive the arrival, in Pagosa Springs, of the world's largest retailer: the Walmart corporation. The event featured the director of the Durango-based Small Business Development Center, Joe Keck---who will be retiring from that SBDC position next month, I understand---along with three additional speakers from the big world beyond Pagosa Springs: Durango florist Amy Long; Durango pharmacy owner Lori Kearney, and Mr. Keck's wife and business partner, Susan Keck. The assumption inherent in the workshop title---"Thriving in a Big Box Environment"---was that Pagosa Springs retailers can not only survive the opening of the new Walmart store here (scheduled for April 22, I've been told) but can actually "thrive" in such an environment. I videotaped a portion of that workshop, attended by 17 local business owners interested in thriving, and it's my pleasure to share a few snippets of the presentation, and a few of my own comments about — not just surviving, but thriving---in a community soon to be dominated, shoppingwise, by Walmart. Following a brief introduction by new Chamber of Commerce executive director Clint Alley, Mr. Keck began with a slightly humorous reference to the five stages of grief and loss, as proposed by Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying.” Last Tuesday, Joe Keck, gave his own version of the five stages retail business owners go through when a Walmart or other Big Box retailer moves into town---especially, perhaps, when that town has a limited and isolated population. Like, say, Archuleta County? "We call it the Five Stages of Dealing with a Mass Retailer. The first stage is Denial; you bury your head in the sand. Doesn't work. The next stage is being Angry — When Bad Things Happen to Really Nice Business People — and you can stay in that stage for a while, but you don't want to stay there too long. The next stage is Acceptance; accepting the fact that you're going to have a Big Box in your community, and it's not going to go away. And the next stage is Action---what's my plan? What's my plan of attack? Do I need to reposition my business... my product? And the last stage is Implementation, and being able to celebrate the change that you've been able to create."Walmart, the undead coming to a community near you...
...your Wal Mart news and information source
--dedicated to rolling back the curtain on the Bentonvile Behemoth's corporate disinformation and other flackery--
welcomes comments from all sides and encourage vigorous debate.
Trolls, of course, will be fisked, deleted and banned.
"... The Writing On The Wal should be on your radar for at least an occasional visit. Think of it as slightly more relevant than keeping abreast of political campaigns. If you have as much political and economic power as most Americans, it likely is."
Angela Gunn Tech_Space, USA Today.
Rep. Paul Gillmor (R-Ohio).
for applications for $700,000 in grants through its Universal School Breakfast for Healthy Kids program, funded by the Walmart Foundation for the third consecutive year. Grants provide in-school assistance, technical support and funding to improve schools’ nutritional environments and increase participation in the National School Breakfast Program. Grant applications may be submitted through May 1, 2015. These initial grants are part of more than $1.4 million in grants which will support school breakfast and physical activity and be awarded by Action for Healthy Kids in the 2015-2016 school year. Grants will be awarded to individual school buildings (up to $2,500 for newly funded schools and $1,000 sustainability grants for previously funded schools) to help administrators launch or expand the universal school breakfast program in under-resourced schools where 60% or more of the students qualify for free and/or reduced-price meals through the federal government’s school meals programs.The world will be a better place when organizations like Action for Healthy Kids no longer needed tax-deductible donations from companies like Walmart because workers are able to feed their own children. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
How much influence should investors have over a company's day-to-day operations? Such questions were once confined to theoretical debates between corporate boards and a small community of governance experts. They have become more important with the rise of activist investors who have leveraged new shareholder powers to press their agendas at big companies. "There is a fundamental governance principle at stake--the right for shareholders to communicate with directors about important policy matters," said Lynn Stout, a Cornell University professor of corporate and business law. She and about three dozen other law professors submitted a friend of the court brief in support of Trinity. Wal-Mart believes a court defeat next month could force companies to help circulate all sorts of investor proposals that interfere with basic business decisions, spokesman Randy Hargrove said. The broader business community shares that concern. "If not reversed, the district court's decision could precipitate an avalanche of shareholder proposals and related litigation," the Business Roundtable said in a court filing. The group represents chief executives of the largest U.S. corporations. Exactly which issues companies may omit from their annual-meeting ballots as "ordinary business" has been batted around by the SEC and federal courts for decades, governance experts said. The SEC generally allows companies to exclude more business-oriented proposals, including those that involve their choices of what to sell. But it has an exception for "sufficiently significant social policy issues," which could in theory include guns. "It's a ping pong ball," said Charles Elson, head of the Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware's business school and a director of HealthSouth Corp. and Bob Evans Farms Inc. "This will be an important ruling, because the court could determine the boundaries of excluding resolutions as ordinary business."I find myself wondering this morning what Cass Sunstein might have to say on this matter. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
Anything Wal-Mart can do to bring jobs home to American workers is included in the company’s U.S. sourcing initiative; and this includes retail packaging, according to Cindi Marsiglio, vp of U.S. manufacturing at Wal-Mart.Now, that isn't nothing, but since shipping packaging makes no economic sense---check your imported beer sometime to see where the golden nectar was actually bottled---and packaging is a major cost in the marketing process, but to slap a Made In The USA label on a piece of cheap plastic crap from China just because the package as made here, is disingenuous. Brewer continues:
In January of 2013, Walmart committed to buying an additional $250 billion in U.S. products by 2023. Since beginning this journey just two years ago, the company says it’s seeing suppliers make enormous strides in finding ways to assemble or produce products in the U.S., which is helping boost job creation. Boston Consulting Group estimates that 1 million new U.S. jobs will be created through this initiative, including direct manufacturing job growth of approximately 250,000, and indirect job growth of approximately 750,000 in the support and service sectors. But what this commitment means to American manufacturers, American workers and the American economy has yet to be written on the wall. I interviewed Cindi Marsiglio, vp of U.S. manufacturing at Wal-Mart, to learn how this initiative may impact Dordan’s customers; that is, those responsible for any dimension of product packaging; be it packaging designers, brand managers, purchasing agents, supply chain managers and all those in between. Marsiglio has worked at Wal-Mart for more than eight years, serving in a variety of capacities within the government relations arm of the corporation. She has been spearheading the U.S. sourcing initiative for about a year in Bentonville, AR, Wal-Mart’s headquarters. According to Wal-Mart’s suppliers, about two-thirds of the products sold at Wal-Mart are made, sourced, assembled or grown domestically. Since Walmart announced its commitment to domestic manufacturing, the company says it continues to see progress from supplier’s expanding manufacturing in the U.S.Take grocery items, particularly produce, out of those figures and suddenly the numbers don't look that good. I applaud Walmart's attempts to mitigate decades of damage to the American economy, but we should not BE fooled by flackery and shell games. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
Wal-Mart has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a December decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to approve a $151 million class-action award to employees in the state for unpaid wages and damages. In 2006, a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury awarded Michelle Braun, a former employee, and nearly 188,000 other employees damages after some complained that the retail giant did not pay them when they worked off the clock or while they were supposed to be on breaks. In its March 13 petition to the Supreme Court, Wal-Mart said the trial jury and Pennsylvania court decisions were wrong because the company had been subjected to "trial by formula," with a few plaintiffs' allegations applied to the whole group. Wal-Mart wants the Supreme Court to follow the same logic it used in reaching a 2011 decision in favor of Wal-Mart in an oft-cited class-action sex discrimination suit. That case, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes, turned on whether the entire class had common issues of law or facts and whether each worker should have to prove that worker's individual circumstance. Wal-Mart argues in its petition that, like Dukes, the wage-and-hour case has important implications that go beyond the facts of the case and involve the adjudication of class action lawsuits. The original wage-and-hour lawsuit was filed in 2002 in Common Pleas Court on behalf of Michelle Braun, a former employee, and others. Common Pleas Court Judge Mark I. Bernstein certified the class.Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
This is the year that economics might, if we are lucky, turn a corner. There’s a deluge of calls for change in the way it is taught in universities. There’s a global conference at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris, where the giants of radical economics – including Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis – will get their biggest ever mainstream platform. And there’s a film where a star of Monty Python talks to a puppet of Hyman Minsky. Terry Jones’s documentary film Boom Bust Boom hits the cinemas this month. Using puppetry and talking heads (including mine), Jones is trying to popularise the work of Minsky, a US economist who died in 1996 but whose name has become for ever associated with the Lehman Brothers crash. Terrified analysts labelled it the “Minsky moment”. Minsky’s genius was to show that financially complex capitalism is inherently unstable. Under conditions of stability, firms, banks and households will, over time, move from a position where their income pays off their debt, to one where it can only meet the interest payments on it. Finally, as instability rises, and central banks respond by expanding the supply of money, people end up borrowing just to pay back interest. The price of shares, homes and commodities rockets. Bust becomes inevitable. This logical and coherent prediction was laughed at until it came true. Mainstream economics had convinced itself that capitalism tends towards equilibrium; and that any shocks must be external. It did so by reducing economic thought to the construction of abstract models, which perfectly describe the system 95% of the time, but break down during critical events.This reminds me of one definition of war, from the view of those actually fighting, as days and weeks of seemingly everlasting tedium and boredom separated by brief moments of inconceivable terror. I'm all for eliminating that terror bit. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
Westley, an Irish American radio host and Irish Dance instructor, has grown increasingly weary over the years of all the merchandise that pops up in the weeks leading up to St. Patrick’s Day promoting a connection between Irishness and drunkenness and suggesting that the holiday is primarily about drinking. Last year, after complaining about the offensive t-shirts to the managers at the Walmart stores in his area and to the company’s corporate office (and being told by each that the decision to carry the items was in the purview of the other), Westley decided to take matters into his own hands. After carefully and thoroughly reading Walmart’s return policy, Westley went to three Walmarts on Long Island and purchased over $800 worth of the t-shirts. He left the tags on, kept the t-shirts clean (and out of public view) in storage boxes, and returned them after St. Patrick’s Day. “Put them on your credit card and you never spend a dime,” he told IrishCentral in a previous interview. His experience returning the shirts last year was surprisingly positive. This year was a different story.Different, but the story, a tale worthy of any bard, is still fine. Fair play to you, Mr. Westley. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
Wal-Mart had argued that the proposal, submitted by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters General Fund, should be omitted because it was vague in its standard of independence. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rejected that argument, according to a letter from the agency delivered to the fund sponsoring the proposal on Friday. In its ruling SEC attorney Luna Bloom wrote that the proposal was not "so inherently vague or indefinite" that shareholders and the company would not be able to determine "what actions or measures the proposal requires."That is all well and good, but given that the Walton family controls a majority of the votes, and I think the chance of a defection unlikely, what is the real point here?
The Teamsters fund has argued that a chairman without ties to the Walton family and who was independent of management would help improve oversight. It cited ongoing investigations into allegations of bribery in Mexico among the issues that illustrated the need for change. The independent chairman proposal was supported by 15.4 percent of the vote in 2014, short of the 20 percent to 30 percent threshold that governance experts say can generally prompt a board to seriously consider an issue or take action. But excluding the Walton block of stock, the measure got 40 percent of the "independent" vote, up from 36 percent in 2013.OK. Fine. 40 percent of the independent vote, a minority of the minority. Is this harassment? Payback? Do the teamsters have a real goal here, or are they just jerking off?
The right to work for a fair wage was considered such an important civil rights issue during the 1960s that one of the 10 demands of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was a: “A national minimum wage act that will give all Americans a decent standard of living”. The amount they proposed was $2, which would be $15 in today’s money. Our federal minimum wage is currently only $7.25. But “right-to-work” laws---that half of all states in America fall under - do diddly squat to fix a minimum wage law that provides workers with less than a living wage. The misleadingly named law has nothing to do with any increased access to employment: it really only gives people the “right” to work in increasingly non-unionized, low-wage, split-shift jobs that may require hours of uncompensated time. “Right-to-work” laws remove the obligation on employees to pay union dues, while still requiring unions to represent the interests of workers who are not paying members. Wisconsin - once a labor stronghold - is the latest state to join the list of right-to-work states after Governor Scott Walker signed its bill into law last week. Proponents of right to-work frame their position as freedom for “America’s workers from the abuses of unionism”---an abuse only forced upon about 11% of workers in the United States. And while the list of things workers don’t like about their job seems to grow daily, the path to recourse for workers only grows smaller. According to the Wall Street Journal, right-to-work bills have weakened labor unions in states where they’ve appeared and have led to the suppression of wages. Examples of unfair labor practices abound as a result. Consider Amazon workers in Nevada, who sometimes spend 25 minutes per day to be searched by security as they leave their shift---but are not paid for that time.Labor unions are the last bulwark in America between workers and capitalists. The dyke is full of holes and Republicans are punching more holes every day. I had hope that President Barack Hussein Obama would make good on his campaign promise to see Card Check become a reality, but that didn't happen. There is no help from the top, the bottom must do what must be done to prevent a roll-back of epic proportions. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
Hi all, I was employed at Wal Mart for a little over a year as a cashier. By all accounts I did a good job and was a good employee. I put in my two weeks notice and left Wal Mart for a trade school. Well, I can't get a job in that trade so I applied to work at Wal Mart again. I was offered a job today as a cashier contingent upon passing the background check and drug screen. I answered all preliminary questions truthfully such as, "Have you ever been convicted of a crime, felony, etc." About a month ago I was smoking a joint in a college student housing area and a law enforcement officer who just happened to be in the area caught me red-handed. He charged me with possession of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia. The charges were enhanced due to my presence in a "drug-free zone" and because I had a prior conviction a few years back for, again, possessing some marijuana. So I'm looking at a 3rd degree felony and a class A misdemeanor. I am represented by a court-appointed attorney whom I hope will plea down these charges. So, they are PENDING CHARGES. Court is in a few weeks. When I was filling out the background check form there was a question as follows: "Do you have any charges pending?" I marked yes, listed them and checked both boxes misdemeanor and felony. The HR lady was visibly concerned upon looking it over but couldn't tell me if this would disqualify me for employment. I will pass my drug test since I quit the night of the bust, so that's not the issue here. The issue is that I have a good record as an employee, but a criminal record of a marijuana possession conviction and one pending. I am an ethical, hard-working, honest and moral person who likes to enjoy the good herb every now and then. I desperately need this job. I've been applying all over town and there is NOTHING. I'm at my wit's end, and on top of it all I'll have to deal with a hefty court fine, which I'll be unable to cover without this. To say the least, the potential of this job offer being rescinded is a heavy burden on my mind right now. If anyone could offer insight on this situation, what my chances are, have I blown it, etc., please do. Preachers, I don't want to hear it. I sincerely thank you in advance for your response.Mark's story, from back in 2010, is just the first of a long list, mostly, based on my scanning of the posts, of people who did something stupid, got caught, and now can't even land a job at Walmart. Before the Internet, background checks were expensive and reserved for people in high-risk jobs. Now, a corporation like Walmart can afford to check each and every applicant for criminal convictions in all 50 states with just a few mouse clicks. Given the volume of checks, I'd wager that Walmart, and all of the Bentonvile Behemoth's competitors, have cut deals so that a check cost less than a dollar. There is a deeper social issue here, have citizens paid their debt to society when their sentence is over, or do they deserve what amounts to a lifetime of punishment? What do you think? Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
Back in 2008, a worker named Jdimytai Damour died beneath a crowd of shoppers who poured through the doors of a Long Island Walmart on Black Friday. The tragedy made national news and prompted an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA ultimately faulted Walmart for Damour's death, arguing that the company had failed to provide him with a safe workplace. The agency fined the world's largest retailer $7,000, the maximum amount it could levy for a serious violation. As The Huffington Post reported in November, Walmart has been fighting the relatively tiny fine on appeal ever since. That fight is now over.Why did Walmart spend all that money, shareholders are certain to ask? Principle, according to a spokesperson.
For Walmart, which had sales of $482 billion in fiscal year 2015, the appeal was never about the money. The company has spent more than $1 million in legal fees just fighting the $7,000 fine, The New York Times reported. Instead, the appeal was about principle. OSHA used what’s known as the general duty clause to fault Walmart for the death. According to the clause, employers have a general responsibility to provide a workplace that’s "free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees." OSHA basically said that Walmart should have foreseen what could go wrong with a Black Friday crowd, and an administrative law judge agreed. Because it's not very specific, OSHA doesn't often hang its citations on the general duty clause; employers like to say that it's not a strong enough foundation for an argument that finds them at fault. In fighting the fine, Walmart argued that the circumstances of Damour's death never could have been predicted.No one who has ever been in a sale crush, as I was back on Christmas Eve of 1972, would listen to Walmart's statement with a straight face. I've seen the glazed-eyes look of bargain frenzied shoppers. The sight is not pretty.
The company's decision to boost the wages of its lowest-paid employees has garnered considerable praise from fair-wage advocates. President Obama reportedly called McMillion following the announcement to applaud the increase. And the move was seen by many economists as precedent-setting, likely leading to increased wages for low-income earners throughout the industry. But advocates for low-wage workers, while supporting the wage boost, say the pay increases will have minimal effect on workers' lives without a full workweek. Companies like Wal-Mart have turned the scheduling of part-time workers into a science, says Tsedeye Gebreselassie, senior staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project. Computer programs used by Wal-Mart and other large retail outlets piece together employee schedules and are frequently programmed to keep employees' hours below the threshold where benefits kick in, she says. “These are super-sophisticated programs that work in real time calculating to the minute based on customer traffic, calling people in to work and sending them home accordingly,” she says. “Working there makes it nearly impossible to plan a stable budget, have another job, or go to schools.”Working for Walmart is like begin a rat in classic electric shock experiment: when the infliction of pain is random and totally out of the control of the rat, the rat goes catatonic. While workers may curl up in corners and tremble, their attitudes, to say the least, are not likely to positive or helpful. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
It’s been a decade in the making but the region’s first interactive children’s museum has announced an opening date and a new name in honor of Lee and Linda Scott and their family who were lead donors and early organizers of the facility. The Scott Family Amazeum in Bentonville is slated to open July 15, unlocking an imaginary world that bridges science, technology and local history in a hands-on format. Lee Scott is a former CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. The nearly 50,000 square-foot children’s museum came with a $28.5 million price tag. Most of the cost is covered by donations from the Scott family and a $10 million matching grant from the Walton Family Foundation which was met with contributions from Walmart Stores Foundations, General Mills, The Hershey Company, Nickelodeon, the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Trust, Johnelle Hunt and Shelley and Doug McMillon. Those donations have the campaign at $26.1 million to date, according to Molly Rawn, communications director.All that sounds really good, right? Then I got toward the bottom of the story and found this:
[Executive director for the Amazeum, Sam] Dean said Wal-Mart was an early signature sponsor. The global retailer provided a semi truck and trailer and delivered it to the site and disassembled it so the building could be erected around it. The truck was then put back together inside the facility and the standard trailer will be reassembled and attached in the final days before opening. He said Wal-Mart is sponsoring a “market” exhibit at the museum that will allow guests to not only “shop” for produce and groceries, but also don aprons and work behind the butcher counter or in the bakery. Additionally, they will be able to serve other guests in the café or play the role of cashier.So, the children will get to experience the joys of working for Walmart? I'm liking this Amazeum less and less.
Dean also said artist Matthew Moore, who was featured in Crystal Bridges’ landmark exhibit “State of the Art,” is contributing to the “market” exhibit. His time-lapse photography of crops growing will be installed among the produce in the market. Guests will be able to use a dial to speed up, slow down or reverse the growth process. Dean said the goals of the exhibit is connect young explorer to the source of food.Walmart is the real source of food of course, those pesky farmers are simply cogs in the Walwheel to be manipulated by the turning of a dial. There is no mention of how much of the "science, technology and local history" museum's 50,000 square feet will be devoted to Walmart, but a tractor-trailer rig takes up a lot space (my estimate is around 1,650 square feet or about 3.3 percent of the total space). I think the better solution would be for parents to actually take their kids to a working farm, one with animals crammed into crates and tractors traveling about with huge tanks of chemicals perhaps, rather than letting them experience their food source as a video game. Finally, I am concerned about the science involved here, but there is no mention of just what that might be. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.