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As U.S. Opposition Mounts, Wal-Mart Looks Abroad for Expansion

BANK OF WAL-MART: STILL A BAD IDEA

Why Bank Of Wal-Mart Really Is A Bad Idea (Huffington Post)
Every now and then you pick up the newspaper and something blows your mind for its sheer lunacy. Quite often it's some inanity out of the mouth of a Bush administration official, but today's winner is David Leonhardt's column on the benefits of granting a bank charter to Wal-Mart on the front of the New York Times business section. I have no idea what the guy was inhaling when he sat down and started typing, but is he out of his freakin mind? So why's it dangerous for Wal-Mart to get a bank charter? Conflicts of interest. Think about it this way, ifWal-Mart is granted a bank charter there's no way you're going to stop other large companies - IBM, Microsoft and Coca-Cola...or Halliburton, Enron and Worldcom - from opening their own banks. Wal-Mart's (and Leonhart's) argument is that banks charge egregious fees and gouge their customers, and since Wal-Mart is known for its low prices it would provide the same services at a lower cost. when you get down to it, do you really think Wal-Mart's looking to get into banking because it wants to bring fairness in pricing to all those poor downtrodden bank customers out there? Or is it because, as Willy Sutton famously once said, that's where the money is? Personally, I believe Wal-Mart has more Sutton than Ghandi in its DNA. But hey, that's just me.

FAIR SHARE: TAKING TAXPAYERS FOR A RIDE


Who Pays For Health Care? (San Francisco Chronicle op-ed from state Sen. Carole Migden) Wal-Mart must pay its fair share Wal-Mart is unique among its competitors (i.e. Costco and Target) as it achieves its success by underpaying its workers and failing to provide them with adequate health care and insurance. Wal-Mart elects to re-invest its profits in global expansion and domestic store remodeling. Fine, we all respect sound business practices; but lawmakers around the country are waking up to the fact that Wal-Mart's voracious business practices have foisted billions of dollars in unfair costs onto all 50 states in the Union. In 2004, a UC Berkeley Labor Center survey found that Wal-Mart employees were 40 percent more likely to use public assistance and welfare programs than comparable employees of other "big box" stores. There are approximately 52,000 Californians, according to the state Employment Development Department, who are employed full time at the 157 Wal-Mart stores in the state. More than 15,000 of these workers and families have been forced to apply for food stamps, subsidized housing and other public welfare programs, according to the Labor Center study. All told, 37,000 Wal-Mart employees are without basic health-care coverage and insurance. The resultant cost to California taxpayers is a staggering $86 million: $32 million in medical services and health-care insurance, and an additional $54 million in public-subsidy programs.

EXPANSION: CALIFORNIA DREAMS DASHED


Retailer Dumps Store Site In Ripon (Modesto Bee - CA) Wal-Mart withdraws its supercenter application; decides to go north of 99 After months of meeting with Ripon residents about a proposal to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter, the corporate giant has withdrawn its application. "We need to protect Ripon's unique character," said Bill Long, chairman of Citizens Against Ripon Establishing Superstores. "We just don't think we need a store of that magnitude."

Citizen Group To Oppose Wal-Mart (Monterey County Herald - CA) Prospects of Wal-Mart opening a new store in a vacant Kmart building has some Marina residents preparing anything but a warm greeting for the retail giant. They've formed a group whose name -- Citizens Against Wal-Mart in Marina -- quickly eliminates guesswork as to their stance on the retailer's plans to occupy the 91,266-square-foot building, which has been empty since 2000. "Wal-Mart coming to Marina is a huge mark in the city's history -- a dark one," said Steve Zmak, a 10-year city resident who runs a marketing-design firm with his wife, Tina, from their Crescent Avenue home. Zmak, chairman of the anti-Wal-Mart group, said about 35 people attended its first organizing meeting Monday, jamming his house and spending 21Ž2 hours on grass-roots campaign strategy. Zmak said they will circulate petitions, offer home showings of the 2005 documentary, "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price," distribute "fact sheets" to businesses, students and residents, and explore possible legal action.

Learn more about Wal-Mart's bullying tactics in our report - "Shameless: How Wal-Mart Bullies Its Way Into Communities Across America."

GLOBAL EXPANSION: WAL-MART LOOKS ABROAD, AS AMERICAN OPPOSITION INCREASES

Wal-Mart Looks Abroad To Grow (AP via Boston Globe) Retailer takes control of Central American chain Wal-Mart is taking control of a Central American retail chain that it bought into in September as it expands in Latin America to bolster its international growth, the world's largest retailer said yesterday. Wal-Mart said it had raised its stake in Central American Retail Holding Co., also known as CARHCO, to 51 percent from 33.3 percent. Terms of the latest deal were not disclosed. The company will be renamed Wal-Mart Central America. The region is a key part of Wal-Mart's international growth strategy that also includes places like China, Japan, Korea, Britain, and Germany. Wal-Mart's international division is growing faster than its US operations. In 2005, the international business, which operates in 15 countries, saw net sales and operating income rise 11.4 percent, compared to 9.4 percent for sales and 8.2 percent for operating income at the US division, minus Sam's Clubs.

Wal-Mart Takes Control Of Central American Chain (Wall Street Journal) The move comes as Wal-Mart looks for growth amid an increasingly saturated U.S. home market. Wal-Mart has been experimenting with multilevel stores and trying to fend off criticism of its employee pay and benefits in the U.S. The world's biggest retailer has been beset by soaring energy prices and an uneven economic recovery that hasn't benefited the majority of lower-income workers, a main Wal-Mart constituency. But unlike in previous quarters, the company didn't cite external factors for performance issues. Instead, its executives focused on how Wal-Mart was adapting to a tougher operating environment.

DIRECT MAIL: RETURN TO SENDER

Wal-Mart Courts Shoppers (East Valley Tribune - AZ) Wal-Mart has begun a "grass roots" effort to gather support from its Gilbert shoppers. Thousands of red, white and blue mailers were sent to Gilbert homes townwide Saturday, asking residents who support the store to mail back their name and information to create a database of supporters. Amid protests, Wal-Mart has tried for a couple of years to build a scaled-down version of the usual 200,000-squarefoot facility in the Gilbert Town Square.Some residents say the mailer irked them. "I just thought it was invasive," said Wendy Claytor, who sent the mailer back describing her disapproval of the company. "If thousands support it, then why are they having to send out for the handful that don't?"

BIG BOXES: DOWNSIZING

Anti-Sprawl Activist Rallies Wal-Mart Opponents (Lincoln County News) "You're fighting for the soul of Damariscotta," Sprawl-Busters' Al Norman told the crowd of about 200 at the community dinner and talk sponsored by Our Town Damariscotta last Saturday in Lincoln Academy's dining hall, Newcastle. Damariscotta is now poised for a vote on a retail store size cap of 35,000 sq. ft., on Tues., March 21. Newcastle will also be voting on one on the 28th.

Thwarting Wal-Mart In Lincoln? (Commercial Property News - NE) On Monday, Mayor Coleen Seng of Lincoln asked the city council to limit the big box component of the Prairie Village North development to 175,000 square feet, which effectively excludes Wal-Mart and its superstore concept, since they are always larger than about 195,000 square feet. The city council approved the mayor's change by 4-3.

ANDREW YOUNG: UNDER FIRE
Wal-Mart's Hired Advocate Takes Flak (USA Today)

News of Young's deal with Working Families dismayed some of his labor union supporters, who have long regarded him as a staunch ally. It shocked some of his colleagues from the civil rights movement, who had also criticized him in 1997 for a similar deal with Nike, which was then drawing protests for doing business with overseas sweatshops. "All I'll say is that Andy's had a wonderful career as ambassador, congressman and mayor, and in his old age he's taken some strange turns," says the Rev. Joseph Lowery, 81, a Georgia activist and former head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. "I haven't had a chance to discuss it with him, but I'm concerned about his partnership with Wal-Mart. Everybody who's talked to me about it has been shocked. They'd sort of gotten over the Nike debacle, and now this."

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