Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/436/5161

From The Socialist newspaper, 20 April 2006

Review:

Walmart: the High Cost of Low Price

Directed by Robert Greenwald

This is a film about Wal-Mart, a very big, very powerful retail corporation. The opening scene is of Lee Scott, chief executive officer (CEO), on stage in front of a packed, cheering crowd. He's smug and arrogant. The film contrasts Scott's cheap words on stage with the reality of life on Wal-Mart's shopfloor. The two don't match. The film features Wal-Mart ads for the same purpose. It is good, anti-big business propaganda.

Manny Thain

The High Cost of Low Price exposes how Wal-Mart maintains its market dominance and screws as much profit out of its workers as possible. It isn't rocket science but it is meticulous, cold calculation. When Wal-Mart moves into an area, it promises decent jobs, improved infrastructure and all-round boom-time. Yet, in town after town, house prices fall, local shops close and town centres are killed off, triggering local economic recessions.

Not only do few communities - with notable exceptions - seem able to resist, Wal-Mart secures massive subsidies from state and county governments to set up. Once ensconced in its subsidised fortress, Wal-Mart gets down to its real business - making obscene amounts of money for the Walton family and top management. No cost corner is left uncut and the price is paid by the 1.6 million workers it employs worldwide.

Exploitation

Wal-Mart has a pathological fear of organised workers - as well it might given the atrocious pay and conditions it enforces. Managers travel from store to store, hunting down and forcing out workers suspected of union involvement. They are shown how to get into computer systems to cut hours off workers' pay slips. Stores are deliberately understaffed, with workers expected to 'fill in', often unpaid.

Then there's the Wal-Mart health plan for its employees. It is so expensive, that the vast majority cannot afford it. Instead, managers instruct poverty-stricken workers to apply for government help. In other words, state aid - largely paid from workers' taxes - is an integral part of Wal-Mart's poverty plan.

Donna Payton, a department manager working a minimum 40-hour week, relies on food stamps, Medicaid and subsidised housing to support her two children. In a stunning understatement, she says: "I don't feel Wal-Mart values me as an employee." She's right, it doesn't.

Wal-Mart treats environmental care in the same way - it is an inconvenient drain on profits to be ignored unless absolutely unavoidable. Other examples back up allegations of race and gender discrimination, currently part of the largest lawsuit of its kind in US history.

Most shocking is the plight of Wal-Mart sweatshop workers around the world. A young Chinese couple are featured. Working on opposite shifts, they see little of each other, entertainment consists of going to a karaoke bar occasionally. They work 12-hour shifts for $3 a day. No rights, constant harassment. Wal-Mart rents accommodation - packing workers, battery-hen style, into Spartan barracks. If a worker has a different place to stay, Wal-Mart doesn't charge them for utility bills, but still charges rent!

Jim Bill Lynn was a Global Services Operations Manager for nine years, touring Wal-Mart factories in Central and South America to ensure clean, safe and humane working conditions. He witnessed mandatory pregnancy testing, lack of drinking water and toilet facilities, workers locked in compounds, padlocked fire equipment and much else besides. Workers were threatened against speaking out. Jim Bill thought that Wal-Mart would rectify the situation: "Now I realise that I was pretty na•ve. But, it didn't occur to me that Wal-Mart wouldn't do anything except the right thing once they were faced with the truth." He was fired.

Warning

The people in the film - workers, ex-managers, campaigners, local administrators - see Wal-Mart as an extreme example, not necessarily typical of the way the whole capitalist system works. But it shows the anger at the brutal methods pursued by this corporation, and the many campaigns against it: for decent pay, union rights, environmental protection, etc.

With Wal-Mart's takeover of Asda in Britain, this film should be a stark warning to Asda workers of the need to strengthen union organisation and rank-and-file participation to counter attempts to force US conditions on them. The campaign against Newham council's proposal to sell the Queen's Market to Asda can learn from the experience of US towns.

Robert Greenwald has directed a series of 'anti-establishment' films, including Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, and Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War.

The High Cost of Low Price provides excellent raw material on Wal-Mart, from which it is possible to draw far-reaching conclusions on the nature of the capitalist system and the world economy. Socialists have to apply that analysis to building mass movements capable of changing the system and arming them with the ideas they need to do so.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 20 April 2006:


Socialist Party NHS campaign

NHS in crisis: Join the fightback now

New Labour feel the heat on hospital cuts

Super-profits from illness


Housing crisis

Fight to save our council housing!


Socialist Party election campaign

A socialist alternative to privatisation

We need a fighting alternative


Workplace news and analysis

Socialists call for "robust" action to oppose Peugeot job losses

Keep up the pressure on bosses and union leaders

New strikes against DWP job cuts

Kick big business out of education!

Stewards prepare to fight for jobs


International socialist news and analysis

Nepal: General strike movement against regime

Successful CWI public meeting in Caracas

Walmart: the High Cost of Low Price


 

Home   |   The Socialist 20 April 2006   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Pay:

triangleGerman engineering strike puts shorter week on agenda - but could have won more

triangleAfter 80 strike days Mears workers achieve victory

triangleI'm now a 'manager' and I can barely manage!

triangleFighting sexism: Positive discrimination - yea or neigh?

triangleRoyal Mail forced back under threat of action

US:

triangleThe Socialist inbox

triangleYour newspaper fights with you: help fund it with May Day greetings

Capitalist:

triangle90 feared dead after migrant boat capsizes

Market:

triangleThe Socialist inbox

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments

21/2/18

Letters

The Socialist inbox

14/2/18

Homeless

In Windsor none of us want to see homeless people on the street

14/2/18

Pay

I'm now a 'manager' and I can barely manage!

7/2/18

Socialist

The Socialist inbox

7/2/18

Cinema

Darkest Hour: Not the usual flattery of brutal Tory Churchill

7/2/18

Revolution

Bernie's book shows need for workers' party

7/2/18

Students

GCSE grading game stresses out students - even more than before!

7/2/18

NHS

Tragic death exposes criminal understaffing of NHS

7/2/18

Sexism

Fighting sexism: Positive discrimination - yea or neigh?

31/1/18

Cricket

Capitalism v cricket

31/1/18

Film

Trump as Nixon: urgent questions about press freedom and the state

31/1/18

Sexism

Presidents Club sexism scandal: what you thought

24/1/18

Carillion

Carillion crisis exposes PFI chaos

24/1/18

Universal Credit

Universal credit: set up to fail

24/1/18

The Socialist

The Socialist inbox

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0191 421 6230

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


February 2018

January 2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999