Thursday, October 27, 2005

As I said before . . .

Really not holding my breath now that this internal Wal-Mart memo has been leaked. Wal-Mart, champions of externalizing costs: we bring you low prices for cheap goods on the backs of a global workforce desperate to keep its collective head above water. I realize that arguments from analogy are generally quite weak, but to publicly announce that your company is focusing efforts on treating workers better while simultaneously launching an internal campaign against those same workers . . . well, folks, it's business as usual in Arkansas.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which built its reputation — and a virulent opposition — on rock-bottom prices, has talked a lot lately about becoming a kinder, more responsible company.

But the retailing giant is finding that convincing the world that it is "committed to change," and to keeping costs low, is a tough balancing act.

On Monday, Chief Executive H. Lee Scott Jr. pledged to bring health insurance within reach of his 1.3 million U.S. employees. On Wednesday, a leaked company memo revealed "bold steps" to reign in Wal-Mart's employee benefit costs.

Among the recommendations: using more part-time workers, cutting life-insurance payouts, pushing spouses off health plans through higher premiums and trying to dissuade unhealthy people from seeking jobs by, among other things, requiring cashiers to gather carts in Wal-Mart's vast parking lots.

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