Left Justified: Wal-Mart surrounds Rockford

We have surrendered Rockford to Wal-Mart a long time ago, allowing these mega box stores to build at all four corners of the city. And the county is next.

It looks like a good deal. Residents get to buy cheap stuff, and local governments make money from sales taxes. And Wal-Mart is in Belvidere and soon will be at Rockton’s gates. There’s little that people can do, but there have been victories in slowing down the spread of Wal-Mart. The complaints include: driving out small businesses, especially from the center of towns; poor treatment of their employees; and Wal-Marts are completing the cycle of exporting American jobs overseas.

Wal-Mart seems to make deals with the worst sweatshops and slave labor camps, all for the cheapest price. Truth be told, Wal-Mart is not the lowest price in town. They have a strategy of putting their loss leader prices right in the middle of the aisle, and high pricing the rest of the stuff.

People have organized against Wal-Mart at least since Sam died. My favorite website is WalmartWatch.com.

Here are two examples from WalmartWatch.com:

“ Missouri class-action lawsuit charges Wal-Mart committed ‘acts of wage abuse’ against its hourly employees by forcing them to work off the clock, failing to pay them overtime, and preventing them from taking rest and lunch breaks.

“In a front page story… The New York Times profiles Wal-Mart’s new War Room, and previews their efforts to take on the new documentary premiering around the country.”

Well, we will show the controversial new documentary Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price Monday, Nov. 14, starting 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockford, 4848 Turner St., Rockford.

The movie is a deeply personal journey into the everyday lives of families struggling to fight a goliath box store. From a small business owner in Missouri to a preacher in California, from workers in Florida to a poet in Mexico, film crews on three continents tell the story of an assault on families and American values. Current and former employees, managers and executives explain the corporation’s inner workings.

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price deals with a lot of the usual Wal-Mart criticisms—effects on small business, workers, unions, the environment and health care—but does so in a uniquely engaging way. By talking directly to mom and pop shops put out of business, and interviewing a number of current and former Wal-Mart managers and workers, director Robert Greenwald effectively personalizes the struggle against the world’s largest corporation.

The program is free and open to the public. A discussion will follow the showing.

This is the newest film from director and producer Robert Greenwald, and the first from his new venture, Brave New Films. For more information on the Internet: http://www.walmartmovie.com/.

There’s more organizings against the world’s biggest chain:

American Rights at Work encourages people to sign a petition against “Wal-Mart’s ruthless campaign against workers’ rights.”

Wake-Up Wal-Mart urges people to become a citizen co-sponsor of “Fair Share for Health Care” reform.

Change America requests people to not purchase their holiday gifts at Wal-Mart. WalmartWatch.com has released a 24-page annual report “Low Prices At What Cost?”, not to be confused with the movie, and started a health care campaign, “Make Wal-Mart Care About Health Care.”

The Fair Trade store (still in exile at 623 Seventh St., open Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays noon to 4 p.m.) is the antithesis of Wal-Mart. Most of the items come from Ten Thousand Villages, a Mennonite fair-trade nonprofit corporation. Artisans are paid a fair living wage for their products, which are shipped over and usually sold at church bazaars. Instead of a major corporation, reaping billions in profits, fair trade is a loose association of mostly nonprofit folks trying to do a little good in the world. And its products can look the same, but in most fair trade stores, you can hear where they come from, learn about the people who made them and maybe even see pictures.

The fair-trade store on Seventh Street will never rival Wal-Mart. But the fair-trade movement does. It would be nice this year when you are shopping for Christmas presents, if you think about where they come from and how they arrived in this country. Giving a gift can also mean giving an item that shows your love for the people who made it. Let the shopping begin.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

From the Nov. 9-15, 2005, issue

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