Thursday, March 29, 2007

Even City Folk Deserve An Opportunity To Be Exploited

You know, you really have to feel for New Yorkers, or more specifically the folks in Manhattan. There was the first attempt on the Twin Towers in 1993, the second attack in 2001, and now a tragedy of even greater proportions, Wal-mart has decided not to build in Manhattan.

Wal-Mart, embattled by failed attempts to open stores in Queens and Staten Island, may be giving up on New York, or at the very least Manhattan. In an interview with The New York Times, Lee Scott, Wal-Mart chief executive and chairman, said that trying to conduct business in New York was so expensive that "I don't think we could increase our profit margins. I mean first of all you got people demanding a living wage and benefits they can actually use, and they got all these union things. Do you know what unions do to profit margins?"

Wal-Mart officials quickly clarified that Scott, who in the interview made repeated references to "New York," was referring to Manhattan, and not the entire city. "It's the illegal immigrants in Manhattan who lose," said one Wal-mart official. "It's just one more low wage no benefit opportunity they won't have."

We would like to be in other boroughs if we can find government officials that will pay us to come, because we know we could suck us some bucks off those communities," said Wal-mart spokesperson Kevin Thornton.

Stuart Applebaum, president of The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union said, "They are going to find that no matter where they are in New York City, the response is going to be the same. New Yorkers will not tolerate their way of operating."

"See, that's what I just don't get," responded Scott. "As long as you get your paper towels for 59 cents, what do you care that we paid the factory worker in China 3/5 of a cent? It's not like he's an American or anything. We pay Americans 5 bucks an hour. No overtime though. Don't want to give the store away."

Patricia Edwards, a portfolio manager and retail analyst at Wentworth, Hauser & Violich in Seattle, which manages $9 billion in assets and holds about 42,845 Wal-Mart shares, noted that even if Wal-Mart writes off the New York area, she doesn't see it as a big financial blow. "They'll just suck a few extra bucks out of everyone else, no biggie."

Union-backed critics in New York and elsewhere have waged a fierce campaign against Wal-Mart, asserting that the retailer's wages and benefits are so egregiously low they drive down pay and benefits for many of its competitors and force employees to go on state-funded health care plans. "Well sure, it sounds bad when you say it like that," Scott said.

Wal-Mart entered Chicago last year, it's biggest city, but only after the city's mayor vetoed an ordinance requiring higher wages. "It's a good thing when government looks out for the people," Scott told reporters. "That's why we pay him."

No comments: