Saturday, May 14, 2005

Wal-Mart Woes

Wal-Mart is going through tough times, and all of its own doing:

For years, Wal-Mart was seen as a sure-thing. With double-digit sales and profit growth and a seemingly smooth and unstoppable future, it was the poster child for American entrepreneurial spirit.

But lately, the world's biggest retailer has become a lightning rod for critics who contend that it mistreats workers and that the company's low wages force employees to seek government aid in the form of Medicaid health insurance for the poor, food stamps and housing assistance.

Wal-Mart also faces the largest ever U.S. class-action lawsuit on charges that it discriminates against women in pay and promotions.

Last month, Wal-Mart said it was cooperating with a grand jury investigating whether Coughlin misused company funds. Wal-Mart in March said that Coughlin resigned at the company's request over its probe into unauthorized use of corporate gift cards and personal reimbursements.

The Wall Street Journal said Coughlin may have used undocumented expense payments to finance anti-union activities.

To top it all, Wal-Mart recently used nazi imagery in an ad aimed at defeating an Arizona zoning ordinance:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said yesterday that it made a "terrible" mistake in approving a recent newspaper advertisement that equated a proposed Arizona zoning ordinance with Nazi book-burning.

The full-page advertisement included a 1933 photo of people throwing books on a pyre at Berlin's Opernplatz. It was run as part of a campaign against a Flagstaff ballot proposal that would restrict Wal-Mart from expanding a local store to include a grocery.

The accompanying text read "Should we let government tell us what we can read? Of course not . . . So why should we allow local government to limit where we shop?" The bottom of the advertisement announced that the ad was "Paid for by Protect Flagstaff's Future-Major Funding by Wal-Mart (Bentonville, AR)."