Think globally, act locally
Walmart, America's most notorious corporate colonizer, is now reaching its predatory tentacles into Altadena, our idyllic little foothill community that rests next to Pasadena. The Kudzu of retailers, Walmart is dangerous for local merchants. You can use Altadena as a model for other smaller cities as Walmart preys on communities all over the world.
Take a sniff. Do you smell the sulfurous scent of rotten eggs? That is the smell of Walmart greed. I have been a global and local human rights activist for decades, primarily through women's rights organizations and the UN system, and I recognize a local imperialist take-over when I see one. Boycotting and "girlcotting" Walmart is a perfect example of thinking globally and acting locally to preserve and protect humanitarian local values.
Most people know the word "boycott" is refusal to patronize an existing business. I suggest that we girlcott, a word I'll coin to indicate that we pro-actively stop Walmart's encroachment before they get here, so we won't need to boycott them once they are here.
My biases are clear. I'm an Altadenan and I hail from South Dakota, so I'm a Midwesterner through and through. I'm squarely in the camp of supporting my local merchants, and I'm anti-sexist, anti-exploitation, pro-union and appalled that Altadena been targeted for not one, but two Walmart Neighborhood Grocery stores!
It's not too late to stop them, but we must not succumb to apathy and resignation.
As I was researching this piece, I visited the Walmart website to see what one goes through to apply for a job. Given their infamous track record in sex discrimination, documented lower wages and systemic glass ceilings for females, imagine my amusement at the following boilerplate statement: "We do not discriminate against qualified applicants based upon any protected group status, including but not limited to race, color, creed, religion, sex (except where it is a bona fide occupational qualification)..." blah, blah, blah, and I'm pondering what exactly is a "bona fide occupational qualification" based on gender? Child bearing?
As the late Florynce Kennedy -- fellow woman's rights activist and professional smartass -- so aptly said, "There are very few jobs that actually require a penis or vagina. All other jobs should be open to everybody." So does this mean Walmart will be selling babies born on the premises? But I digress.
There are so many reasons for being against Walmart; see what your particular favorite is and take any number of the actions I'm going to list at the bottom of this column.
Job Creation -- Are you in favor of jobs for local people? Me too! There are, however, gullible people who are excited about Walmart opening a Neighborhood Store because Walmart will supposedly be creating local jobs. WRONG!! In fact, Walmart's presence will decrease employment. How? First of all, Walmart refuses to commit to employing local people. That means they will -- and do -- hire anyone they please, no matter where they live. In addition, Walmart's predatory pricing will inevitably destroy competing small local businesses, which means that people will LOSE their jobs when Walmart sinks its claws into the neighborhood.
Anti-blight -- Uninformed people think, "Yeah, there's development happening with a new Walmart store!" While one corner of a blighted area may get upgraded, consider that awful "ghost town" look when small local businesses are forced to shut their doors.
Lower Costs -- When you go for cheaper short-term prices, the long-term effect is just the opposite. A large corporation like Walmart can afford to have ridiculously low prices until it has driven out the competition. When that happens -- as it always does -- then Walmart will raise its prices. Do you love your local Ma and Pa gift store? In Altadena, that's Webster's Fine Stationers. Everyone has their own favorites. Love your local pharmacy where they know your name? You can kiss all that goodbye if Walmart comes in.
Are you against genetically modified organisms? Are you against slave labor and sweatshop conditions overseas? Are you pro-union? If so, you are anti-Walmart, whether you know it or not.
A brilliant way to take a local action that makes a global difference is to take a stand against Walmart, whether you live in Pasadena, Iowa or North Dakota. This is one instance where being a NIMBY can make a difference! (NIMBY means "Not In My Back Yard.")
Actions to take
• Sign a no "Big Box Store" petition being circulated by www.savealtadena.com. If you don't live in this area, consider a petition based on zoning ordinances in your own community.
• Contact "Neighbors Building a Better Altadena" (NBBA) by calling 626-344-7806 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for info. No matter where you are, consider hosting a screening in your church, home or place of business of the truly scathing and accurate documentary produced by Robert Greenwald, "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price" which addresses Walmart's highly negative personal, local and global impact.
Organize, don't agonize! Get your neighbors out and about, protecting their own long-term interests!
Finally, girlcotts are more impactful than boycotts! An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. Don't let Walmart infect Altadena or your community in the first place.
Follow Ellen Snortland on Twitter: www.twitter.com/snortland