When Wal-Mart Comes To Town, What Does It Mean For Workers?

NPR‘s second of two-part series about Wal-Mart looks into how it creates a large number of jobs and how it treats the workers that fill those jobs.

The company has long been hammered by critics for its low pay and erratic work schedules. And its worker policies have a major impact on economies: With more than 2 million people on the payroll — 1.4 million of them in the U.S. — it’s the third-largest employer in the world, behind the U.S. Defense Department and the People’s Liberation Army of China.


“I was never really against Wal-Mart — I was against the wages that they were paying,” says D.C. City Councilman Vincent Orange.

When Wal-Mart Comes To Town, What Does It Mean For Workers?

[photo via Mike Mozart/flickr]

In The Wal-Mart de Mexico Scandal, Urban Planners Are Blemished Too

Wal-Mart de Mexico Logo

If you haven’t already done so, please read New York Times reporter David Barstow’s comprehensive reporting on Walmart’s intensive push for store growth in Mexico, involving bribes by executives of its subsidiary Wal-Mart de Mexico to local officials, including elected ones, for construction permits.

No, urban planners were not spared from the scandal, no matter how “obscure” they were (i.e., low on the land use and political power totem poll).

UPDATE: New York Times journalist David Barstow was recently awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on this scandal.

[image via CAC Porter Novelli]

How Much Impact Can Walmart Have On A Downtown-Less City?


Elk Grove is a former bedroom community just outside of Sacramento. With 153,015 residents (as of 2010 Census), Elk Grove should no longer be considered as such, since it is a fully vested city that saw growth explode in the past two decades.

With such rapid growth, city leaders reacted instead of envisioned what kind of city that Elk Grove should be. Not surprisingly, the city lacks a true downtown or city center where business and civic activity can truly converge and concentrate.

Ironic, isn’t it, that city leaders would be reluctant to approve a zoning change to classify a Walmart as a “grocery store” so that the big box retailer could be unconstrained by such regulations as hours of operation limits or amount of floor space dedicated to the sale of non-taxable goods. (I am undecided as to whether the latter is more efficient than simply limiting the total amount of floor space in constraining Big Box.)

The Staff Report (PDF) lays out the definitions from the municipal code that regulates the types of businesses that can operate where and how they can operate.

But here’s some food for thought: If Walmart is known for “destroying” downtowns across America, then how much impact can it have on the economy of a city that doesn’t have a true downtown and few traditional local businesses? If the city has nothing from franchises and big box stores, then what would you be fighting for?

[image via Carlson]