Wal-Mart Benefits, Fear Mongers

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - August 31, 2005
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Can anybody talk or write rationally about Wal-Mart?

Some of you object to the Honolulu site crowded along Keeaumoku Street. Some of you note it’s anti-union. Some of you object to small wages paid to its “associates.”

It’s true that Costco at $17 an hour on average is paying employees 40 percent more than Wal-Mart. It’s true that Wal- Mart has no unions while Costco has 14,000 Teamsters. But FedEx is largely nonunion, too. Do you refuse to send packages through it? And only 12.5 percent of the work force in America is unionized. Less than 8 percent if you don’t count government employees.

Wal-Mart is bigger than Exxon Mobil, General Motors and General Electric and does more business than Target, Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney and Safeway combined. There’s no question that with that kind of retail muscle, it can squeeze its 21,000 suppliers mightily.

So, I was able to buy short pants for $13 each. Should I have said “no way” or told the clerk I wasn’t going to buy anything because she wasn’t union and had little chance of moving into management?

The store was packed. The clerks and cashiers were taking home salaries and have medical and dental benefits.

There’s a dichotomy in American economic life. Jobs vs. principle. I’m pro-union because I know how bad some employers can be if there’s no union threat hanging over them. I’ve also worked for some nonunion employers who were very generous. If the Wal-Mart employees want a union, they have to vote one in.

Another anti-Wal-Mart knock is that it is a vast pipeline that gives non-U.S. companies access to the American market. Mainly China. We need that China business because China’s the premier buyer of our national debt. China export factories slow down and goodbye debt buyer.

One writer who follows Wal- Mart’s business said that “there is nothing genial about the process by which Wal-Mart gets its suppliers to provide tires and contact lenses, guns and underarm deodorant at every day low prices. It is legendary for quite straightforwardly telling them what it will pay for their goods.”

Is that bad? I guess yes, if you believe big and powerful in business is bad. I’d love to still have the mom and pop stores here. But they were market-inefficient and would have to sell me that pair of short pants for $30.

Some of our citizens are getting their knickers all knotted over genetically modified plants and foods.

They fear experiments with taro. They fear that a modified algae in Kona will creep out of its tank and attack our gardens. I’d love to have longer shelf life for corn, tomatoes, lettuce and strawberries. I’d like genetic engineering to give us new medicines.

I recognize that every new step in human technology comes with some fear-mongers attached.

Hear them out. Then choose to move ahead.

A Veterans Affairs physician oversleeps and shows up at the Honolulu airport at 5:34 a.m. to check in for a 5:55 a.m. flight. Aloha Airlines tells him no way, it’s only 21 minutes to push-off time and the flight’s closed out.

Now the VA director demands that the airline apologize to its doctor and give his people special boarding passes.

What gets into some of our government officials? None of us should be getting checked in and passed through security 21 minutes before a flight or getting a special no-wait, nobump pass.

VA doctors need to wake up and get to the airport on time. The rest of us do it all the time.

Anybody notice that mayor Mufi Hannemann has a pro-level singing voice? He did Honolulu on KINE 105.1 FM Aug. 20 for that ResortQuest Hula Line On Waikiki Beach.

PR gal Mona Wood, who created the event, also worked on hizzoner’s campaign.

Mufi’s got a surefire crooner career if his political one should crash. But his day job is looking mighty fine.

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