Is money freedom?

"Ask a single mom where she shops. Money is freedom, and by saving families money, as is its mission, Wal-Mart provides their customers more freedom in their daily lives." So says Ron Galloway, the independent producer responsible for the Wal-Mart promoted documentary (that competes with "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Pay" by Robert Greenwald) in an article from Women's eNews that was published earlier this month. The article highlighted the planning of a rally in Clinton, Maryland that was organized by the state chapter of the National Organization for Women. The hope was to "raise awareness of allegations against Wal-Mart of sex discrimination and unaffordable health care insurance for its low-wage workers." This goal is laudable, but shouldn't we levy allegations of sex discrimination and unaffordable health care insurance for low-wage workers against all offending corporations, not just Wal-Mart? I don't view this position as a defense of Wal-Mart even though I shop there maybe every other month, never for toothpaste and almost always for one or two items that I need and pick up there because I happen to be driving past it. But in general, I like the idea that groups want to improve working conditions and not eliminate the existence of Wal-Mart, given the number of Americans it employs. You can't outsource overseas a Wal-Mart greeter, now can you? Mostly, however, I can't argue with what Galloway says because I know that my mother skimmed from her budget throughout my childhood and without that skimming, my brothers and I wouldn't have made it through a few tough times. Ever since I left my home for college, over 25 years ago, she's given us literally thousands of dollars from that bankroll stashed in her closet, all culled from paying less than she expected to pay for our basic needs. The rally? I had a hard time digging up as much press post-rally as there was pre-rally. I would think that's not a good sign, but I'm not a rally-goer or organizer, so I don't want to speculate. I emailed the Maryland NOW chapter president for a re-cap of how it went and she sent me a copy of a brief article in the Prince George's County Gazette. It took place as planned, on Saturday, 12/17/05. According to the article, about 45 people participated and handed out information to several hundred shoppers. I'm sure they learned some information that they didn't know before. But if any of those shoppers were like my mother - trying to make ends meet with a budget given to her by her husband that rarely matched the real price of raising there children, chances are, they will continue to shop there. Knowing this, we must work to change corporate behavior, not necessarily shoppers' behavior. Besides, when you're talking about a behemoth like Wal-Mart and its appeal to so many shoppers, can we really say whose behavior is easier to change?

3 Responses to “Is money freedom?”

  1. Jonathan Rees says:

    I don’t disagree with anything you write here. Indeed, I’ve never called specifically for a Wal-Mart boycott (although I hope people who learn more about Wal-Mart will choose voluntarily not shop there). But I think this post is operating from a faulty premise: Wal-Mart isn’t really that cheap.

    I’ve argued this a number of times in many places, most notably here:

  2. Jill Miller Zimon says:

    Thanks for the link, Jonathan. I will read it and respond. I’m sure you’re right, that it’s not the cheapest in many ways.

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