Friday, April 3, 2009

Stampede in New York and across the globe

On a cold November morning in 2008, hundreds of shoppers crowded outside of a Wal-Mart store in Long Island, New York, anxious to get the best deals in the post-Thanksgiving sales. When the doors opened, the crowd surged ahead desperate for a bargain. In the chaos and confusion that ensued, Jdimytai Damour, a security guard was trampled to death.

While the rest of the global economy is crashing, the discount giant is doing just fine. In fact, Wal-Mart sales exceeded US $374 billion in 2008. This is more than the combined GDP of Portugal, Malaysia, Venezuela, Pakistan and Egypt. Perhaps it is stretching the analogy too far, but Wal-Mart's power in the global economy (even in times of economic crisis) looks like a global stampede to me.

The Wal-Mart website touts all it is doing to make goods more affordable for (American) families hurt by the economic crisis. The International Labor Rights Forum is organising a campaign focused on Wal-Mart with its 60,000 suppliers worldwide. It’s worth checking out. It seems to me that now more than ever it’s time to address the power of large multinational corporations like Wal-Mart to drive prices – and wages - down and the impact this has on workers worldwide.

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