Wal-Mart has been the target of union campaigns for years. Why? Because Wal-Mart is the biggest fucking retailer in the world, and the most famous anti-union company in America. It makes sense for both practical and symbolic reasons. In L.A. right now, unions and worker advocates are trying to stop the construction of a new Wal-Mart in the city's Chinatown district. But Wal-Mart has an ally in the fight: the Wall Street Journal.
I base this assertion on the WSJ's story today, "Los Angeles Unions Try a New Tack in Wal-Mart Battle." Gawker readers are familiar with this issue already, because a PR person working on Wal-Mart's behalf was caught posing as a reporter in order to infiltrate an anti-Wal-Mart group, leading to the firing of the flack and the subsequent (very public) firing of the PR firm itself, by Wal-Mart. Of course, you wouldn't learn any of this by reading the WSJ's story on this very issue. None of it is mentioned.
What is mentioned? Anti-Wal-Mart research is flawed!
A study by the Center for Urban Research and Learning at Chicago's Loyola University found that some stores near a Wal-Mart that opened in Chicago in 2006 went out of business, and that overall employment was unchanged. The study noted that the data it used weren't ideal.
Wal-Mart is being unfairly singled out!
It isn't unusual for large retailers to contribute to political campaigns and hire lobbyists. Wal-Mart has been pressed on wages by unions across the country, but they have applied little pressure to other large retailers*.
*Untrue—there's a well-publicized campaign to unionize Target, for example.
It's just a tiny little store!
The store would be primarily a grocery outlet and would be smaller than a typical suburban Wal-Mart center.
Business leaders want it!
While some specialty retailers are against the store's expected opening next year, some business leaders are welcoming it.
The union's protest sucked!
Organizers had billed Saturday's protest as the biggest ever held against Wal-Mart in the U.S., although turnout fell well below union leaders' expectations.
And L.A. needs Wal-Mart jobs!
Los Angeles County is struggling with an unemployment rate of 11.4%, compared with the nation's 8.2%, and a slowly recovering retail sector.
Not quoted in the story: any Wal-Mart workers. Nor anyone from Warehouse Workers United, the group that was infiltrated by the Wal-Mart PR spy. Nor does the story make any mention at all of questions about Wal-Mart's PR tactics in this and similar store battles.
If you'd like to read something to balance out this story, try this. In the meantime, Wal-Mart is lucky to have such a fine national newspaper as an ally. (Especially since they might see a story they don't like in the local paper.)
[WSJ. Photo: AP]