Friday, February 17, 2006

New York Times Attacks (???) Wal-Mart

A revealing article, which is revealing in ways the reporter and the newspaper probably don’t understand, just appeared in the New York Times.

Anti-Wal-Mart activists leaked to the paper the content of a private web site Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott Jr. uses to communicate with his employees.

The contents of the site were leaked by Wal-Mart Watch, an anti-Wal Mart group backed by unions and leftist foundations.

What sinister things did the communications reveal?

First, Scott gets a bit testy about attacks on the company. Horrors!

He brags a bit about having dinner with Tony Blair, meeting with Prince Charles and meeting with Steve Case, the founder of AOL. A little tacky, maybe. But the context was the fact that he is required to represent Wal-Mart around the world.

He exhorts his employees to offer good service and play by the rules.
“If you choose to do the wrong thing: if you choose to dispose of oil the wrong way, if you choose to take a shortcut on payroll, if you choose to take a shortcut on a raise for someone — you hurt this company,” he added. “And it’s not unlikely in today’s environment that your shortcut is going to end up on the front page of the newspaper. It’s not fair to the rest of us when you do that.”
We tend to discount such goody-goody rhetoric from executives, but just what is bad about saying that?

What the anti-Wal-Mart crowd probably dislikes most is the pointed barbs he directs at them and their allies. On the issue of whether Wal-Mart should offer benefits as extensive as firms like General Motors, he quips:
“One of the things said about General Motors now is that General Motors is no longer an automotive company. General Motors is a benefit company that sells cars to fund those benefits.”
And then there is this:
Commenting on a labor union that is fighting Wal-Mart’s expansion plans in New York City and elsewhere, Mr. Scott wrote in the Web site, “that way its members’ employers” — meaning many Wal-Mart competitors — “can continue to charge extremely high prices for food and tolerate poor service.”
Wal-Mart is far from being the perfect company, but its enemies are an unholy alliance of snobby elitists, leftist business-hating activists and self-interested labor unions frustrated by the fact that Wal-Mart workers won’t freely vote to unionize, and wanting to use political pressure to force them to. Or at least prevent the company from offering a real challenge to its unionized competition.

With these sorts of enemies, one has to come down on their side.

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