Wal-Mart courting minority businesses in NYC

Well, well, well. It seems the The Big Blue Retail Giant is looking to woo minority-owned businesses here in New York City, according to a New York Sun article today. (Thanks to Working Families Party's Bacon & Eggs for the link.) In an ultimate display of the fox guarding the henhouse, Wal-Mart has been meeting with minority business associations in an effort to teach them how they can get their product lines into the store:


The Asian American Federation event was the first "minority supplier workshop" hosted in New York, part of a larger program the company launched about a year ago to reach out to minority businesses, Wal-Mart's director of corporate affairs for the east region, Mia Masten, said. "We were very encouraged by the enthusiastic response to last month's event and will have a larger venue, more staff, and more publicity for the next event," she said via e-mail. Generally, she said, the company is looking to "expand our relationship" with all minority groups, including women and the physically challenged.

These business owners, however, don't seem to understand how Wal-Mart really works as a retailer once their product lines are bought:
"I've been fighting for the small businesses more than almost anyone else out there - I am very sensitive to them. But I also have an allegiance to the members who pay their dues every year," the president of the New York Statewide Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, Frank Garcia, said. "To those minority businesses, this could really save their business. This could create a lot of jobs in the South Bronx."

Sure, Wal-Mart might just buy up that product line of yours, and you might be able to create some jobs. But what happens when they start demanding a price point that you can't meet, and then you have to cut pay, cut benefits or even lay those people off? Is that the kind of environment you want to create for struggling working people in the South Bronx?

I'm not speculating, here. Wal-Mart is notorious for this kind of behavior; check out this Frontline episode where they investigate how Wal-Mart nearly put Rubbermaid out of business for just one example. (Rubbermaid! Not some tiny business in the Bronx that they could flick away with their big blue pinky! Scroll down about a quarter of the page to the interviews with Stanley Gault and Wolfgang Schmitt, both former CEOs of Rubbermaid.) Here's another article from FastCompany about Wal-Mart's price demands of its suppliers.

Wal-Mart has rapidly been creating the corporate plantation that it's had running in foreign sweatshops for years right here at home, in the hearts of communities that struggle to survive daily. When urbanites like me think of Wal-Mart, we often think of the suburban and rural glow of a big blue box store out in the country; we forget the weight that this monster presses on the economies of working class folks everywhere. Reaching out to minority communities is just another slap from a corporate machine that already exploits and discriminates against people of color worldwide.
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