With a sharp rise in the number of big box stores being built in the city, it seems an opportune time to take a closer look at some of the broader issues raised by this trend at the final presentation of the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs for 2003 – 2004.
David Delooze, a student of political science and analyst of social issues, brings his critical eye to the impact one store, Wal-Mart, has on people and the economy – both locally, and globally – by addressing the following issues:
· The impact of mega stores on our local economy, more specifically, their impact on small business and the re-vitalization of our downtown. According to Delooze, mega stores place great strain on the planning and infrastructure of any city.
· The juxtaposition between the salaries of senior managers and company employees. According to James Hightower, author of the book: “Thieves in High Places,” Wal-Mart’s CEO is said to have earned 11.5 million dollars last year, which is the annual salary of 765 of his employees. The personal wealth of the owners of Wal-Mart is estimated at over $100 billion dollars.
· In 2001, Wal-Mart moved its purchasing headquarters to China, to capitalize on cheap Chinese labour, often provided by women and children living in poverty, and working under questionable conditions. (source: Thieves in High Places) While Wal-Mart claims to “Buy American” it is in actual fact the largest importer of Chinese goods in North America. What impact does this have on our national economy and employment rates?
· Another issue David will raise addresses the fact that Wal-Mart does not provide healthcare benefits to any employee who has not been on payroll for at least two years. This leaves thousands of workers without any coverage, even if they are full-time.
These issues are the tip of the iceberg. Wal-Mart, like many other large corporations, wields enormous political and economic power. As citizens, it is incumbent upon us to make sure we step back now and then and look at the big picture.
David will help to do so. Fascinating and engaging, David takes us behind the scenes with a fresh and rigorous look at issues too often eclipsed by the many benefits Wal-Mart brings: reasonable prices, employment, taxes and their support of community projects and social justice.
Speaker: David Delooze, a student of social and political policy at the University of Lethbridge.