I get why millions of people shop at Wal-Mart. I’m on a budget too. Why would I pay more for something I can get for less at Wal-Mart? I’ll tell you why. It’s not cheaper to destroy our downtowns, outsource jobs overseas, encourage overconsumption of a bunch of plastic knickknacks we don’t need, or support a culture that discriminates against women. It’s taken me a couple of days to ponder this post because I realize the Wal-Mart issue is complicated. I try not to be a reactionary critic of corporate America, spewing the hatred that “All corporations are bad.” and “Wal-Mart is evil.” I own stock in Wall Street companies. I am the co-owner of a limited liability corporation, and I am pro-jobs creation. I understand economies of scale and I am not against Wal-Mart because of its success. I am against Wal-Mart because I think it threatens Democracy. 

The argument that Wal-Mart guts downtowns and sucks dollars from our local economies is not new. Local food, I can assure you, is better purchased from your friendly Farmers’ Market where it is certified fresh and, well, local! Thomas Jefferson would not have held Wal-Mart’s lawyers in the same high regard he had for farmers.

This week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that millions of female Wal-Mart employees cannot bring a class-action suit against their employer is a reminder of the power that money has over justice. The decision limits the ability of workers to come together and argue as a group for an alleged common wrong by their employer. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, writing for the four dissenting justices, wrote that “gender bias suffused Wal-Mart’s company culture.”

“There are tens of thousands of experienced Wal-Mart women who would like to be promoted to the first managerial rung, salaried assistant store manager. But Wal-Mart makes it impossible for many of them to take that post, because its ruthless management style structures the job itself as one that most women, and especially those with young children or a relative to care for, would find difficult to accept,” said UCSB professor Nelson Lichtenstein, in his June 21 New York Times editorial.

Democracy is based on equality.  It is undemocratic to discriminate against people because of their gender. Strong democracies give individuals a voice. This week’s Supreme Court decision weakens  workers’ collective voice. It makes it more difficult to take on unfair labor practices and it widens the gap between the corner office and the assembly line.  Huge wage inequities between CEOs and production workers can be attributed to a person’s “value” to the company and are at the discretion of shareholders. Still an assault on people’s ability to get ahead, at least low wages are legal. Denying promotions based on one’s gender can only be attributed to discrimination, the sign of an undemocratic society. Take the high road, and see if you kind find alternatives to the low price leader. Always.

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