As is the case with any democratic institution, the free market functions effectively only when consumers have all the facts. A brilliant new film by Robert Greenwald, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices, tells the real story of the corrosive effects that Wal-Mart wreaks upon the communities in which it operates and the men and women it employs. Armed with these facts, American consumers can make informed decisions that reflect the family values that we all hold dear. This is bad news for Wal-Mart.
Rather than recount the ugly statistics and devastating human toll that Wal-Mart exacts (see the movie, a simple blog can not do it justice), I want to focus on the part of the story that is inspirational. Communities across America are saying enough is enough and banning Wal-Mart from their city limits. Greenwald lays bare the notion, propagated by today’s robber barons, that American consumers will sell their soul for cheap t-shirts. Instead, we see the strength that comes when local government that truly reflects the values of its citizens: a respect for family-owned businesses, a recognition that a person’s labor should not be given without a living wage and benefits, and the repudiation of manufacturing that cares not for worker safety and environmental protection. The story told in Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices is sure to accelerate this rejection of Wal-Mart, make it change the way it does business, or both.
Having just celebrated a holiday dedicated to giving thanks for our nation’s bounty, I am heartened to find the American spirit alive and well in Robert Greenwald’s storytelling and the community action it is sure to inspire. So this weekend, when the football games end and we have had all the leftovers we can stand, throw on a DVD and get inspired.