Stephanie Fierman On Resisting The Obviously Obnoxious
Tuesday August 12th 2008, 2:26 pm
Filed under: branding,retail,Wall Street Journal

In July, Crain’s New York published a letter written by Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, part of the United Food and Commercial Workers.stephanie-fierman-walmart-wages.jpg

Representing 100,000 union members in the US and Canada, Appelbaum holds the view that Wal-Mart would be bad for New York because of the company’s history of low wages, problematic benefits and its past tendency to, shall we say, sidestep US labor laws.  The UFCW has been trying to unionize Wal-Mart for years, a topic made all the more topical by a Page One Wall Street Journal story on August 1, “Wal-Mart Warns of Democratic Win,” which describes mandatory meetings held with store managers and senior staff during which Wal-Mart HR predicts the apocalypse if Obama wins. 

At the end of June, the NLRB ruled that Wal-Mart had broken the law when it fired an employee who supported the UFCW and threatened to withhold pay increases for those employees who vote for a union.

So I certainly wasn’t surprised to see a rebuttal of sorts in the paper’s Letters to the Editor section last week – I was, however, surprised to see that the response was written by… Wal-Mart!  More specifically, the blurb was written by a lobbyist for Wal-Mart.

Whatever you think of Wal-Mart – even if you support Wal-Mart coming to New York – I thought this was sort of amusing.  Sort of like asking me to read a letter the big bad wolf wrote to the three little pigs assuring them that everything would be ok, or a quick note penned by the old woman to Hansel and Gretel.  Of course Wal-Mart is going to feel differently. Wouldn’t there be something wrong with them if they didn’t?

So why would a reputable paper bother?  And even if there’s an answer to that (and I freely admit that there might be), why would Wal-Mart bother?  For me as a consumer and businessperson, such a completely unnecessary action smacks of smarminess and a shove-it-down-your-throat, can’t-let-it-go attitude.  Pay attention to your CEO, H. Lee Scott.  He was right.  And even if you’re still working on good ol’ New York – be a little smarter about it, huh?

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