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During his 20-year career as a journalist, Rick Wartzman delved deep into the reality of poverty for a major Wall Street Journal examination of the minimum wage and also mastered the intricacies of corporate finance as business editor of the L.A. Times. In yesterday’s interview with Frying Pan News, the executive director of the Drucker Institute discussed the destructive force of big business’ “shareholder-is-all culture.” In today’s conclusion, Wartzman talks about Walmart, the outlook for unions and the need to build an education-based service economy.
Frying Pan News: How would you characterize Walmart, which is now trying to move into L.A.’s grocery market?
Rick Wartzman: Walmart is less Drucker-like than Costco, certainly, but increasingly presents a complicated picture. They’ve always paid lousy wages and benefits, squeezed suppliers until they choked and accelerated the race to the bottom in terms of low-cost labor.
What do 19th century labor leader Samuel Gompers and the virulently anti-union think tank, the Cato Institute, have in common? More than you might imagine. They actually stare out at each other across Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C. Or rather, the beautiful monument of Gompers and Gompers Square sit directly opposite Cato’s towering, modern offices, where the Koch brothers regularly plot strategy.
I discovered this humorous anomaly while moving into my temporary apartment around the corner, on 11th Street and Massachusetts Avenue, as I prepared to begin a three-month fellowship at Georgetown University — and a project that will look at ways to link to federal policy our efforts to build a new economy for all in Los Angeles. More on that later.
In memory of Gompers, I decided to create an imagined dialogue between the Cato Institute — now embroiled in an internal brouhaha involving the Brothers Koch – and their ever present bronze nemesis,
Few can claim as much knowledge of both sides of America’s polarized wealth divide as Rick Wartzman. During his 20-year career as a journalist, Wartzman delved deep into the reality of poverty for a major Wall Street Journal examination of the minimum wage and also mastered the intricacies of corporate finance as business editor of the L.A. Times. At the Times he also originated one of the paper’s only serious attempts at understanding the real economic challenges of our time, a column that the Times soon jettisoned, making clear that covering the lives of the working class — truck drivers, hotel workers, factory hands — was not a priority.
Since 2007 Wartzman has served as executive director of the Drucker Institute, a think tank founded to perpetuate the legacy of management guru Peter Drucker and dedicated to bettering society by helping organizations to be more effective and responsible.
Since when did one’s mode of transportation become about politics? Who ever thought that riding one’s bike to the grocery store, taking the bus to work or driving to run errands could be a sign of one’s political stripes?
In some cities, such as New York and San Francisco, riding the train defines the experience of everyone living there. Entire movies, books and blogs have documented the romance and day-to-day life of riding public transit and navigating busy sidewalks. Can you even imagine what a New York free of subways, buses and pedestrians would look like? Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, you’re on the train.
Just ask Mitt.
Mitt Romney is among a vocal set of Republicans who have decided that certain forms of transportation are more democratic than others; he subscribes to the belief that roads are a given right of Americans, but that public transit is not.
Happy Birthday, Walmart! You great big mega-marketing rascal–you turn 50 this week. You’ve come such a long way from Roger, Arkansas, the tiny town at the foot of the Ozarks where you took your first wobbly steps.
Now you’re an international star! The planet’s biggest private-sector employer, with 2.2 million “associates” throughout the world—we usually call ‘em employees, but whatever– 1.4 million in the United States. Creator of history’s most efficient global supply chain, you call the shots on production, wage and workplace standards around the world—the Walmart business model ruthlessly undercut those everywhere. Plus you have shriveled and destroyed small business communities in towns across the United States.
Star power, dudes.
Now you are here in Los Angeles celebrating the big Five Oh with a new acquisition.
It’s tasteful, not large and gaudy, like your typical 200,000 square foot megastore.