If you’re like me, right now you may be scrambling to stock up on all of your Passover essentials. So what if I told you that you could get 12 boxes of matzah – more than enough to cover the eight days and nights of breadless revelry – for just over $40 bucks?
Ah, but there’s a catch: You’ll have to buy this miracle matzah pak at Walmart. Moral dilemma? You bet.
Last year we provided a short list of reasons you might want to think twice about a Walmart matzah binge. We wish we could report that Walmart had cleaned up its act since then, but alas, the world’s largest retailer has racked up a series of alleged corporate crimes and indiscretions that would make a pharaoh blush.
So before you succumb to those everyday low prices, here are five more reasons not to buy matzah at Walmart:
1) Hunger Strike: Remember those passages in the haggadah about the bread of affliction?
Today The New York Times dropped the other shoe of its investigation into charges of Walmart bribery in Mexico. In some important ways, that second shoe is going to sound even louder than the first. This past April The Times reported how, in 2004, a former Walmart employee became a whistleblower and informed the retail giant’s top brass that systemic bribery had been Walmart de Mexico’s default mode when it came to obtaining building permits and other forms of government cooperation. The executives in Bentonville, Arkansas ordered an internal investigation – but cut it short after the whistleblower’s charges were proved true.
Now The Times’ own investigation, which picked up where Walmart’s was unceremoniously canceled, reveals how the company showered bribes on Mexican officials to overcome zoning prohibitions against building a Walmart supermarket close to that country’s cherished pyramids at Teotihuacán.
Maybe you will be one of the 10,000 people expected at a June 30th protest in L.A.’s Chinatown against a controversial plan to open a Walmart store there. The uber-retailer’s reputation for wrecking the atmosphere of historic districts like Chinatown, and posing a potential threat to local businesses, has generated strong resistance to plans for a 33,000 square-foot “express” Walmart at Cesar Chavez and Grand avenues.
The fight isn’t only about Chinatown–it’s about all of Los Angeles, because Walmart may be coming to a corner near you. Walmart has designs on locations around L.A. County to gain a foothold in the local urban grocery market.
The retailing behemoth needs to shore up sagging sales and stagnating stock prices, which requires expansion into U.S. urban markets. (Rural and suburban areas across the country have reached the Walmart saturation point.) But Walmart has encountered stubborn opposition in urban centers where residents take issue with its penchant for keeping its employees in low-wage,
(Editor’s Note: A slightly longer version of this post originally appeared in Dissent.)
Last month Wal-Mart became the latest company to drop its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council in response to public outrage over ALEC’s aggressive support for “Stand Your Ground” laws (which are implicated in the death of Trayvon Martin, among others). Wal-Mart won some kudos for leaving ALEC, but its shrewd move was nothing more than an attempt to divert attention from the retail giant’s current troubles and its multimillion dollar effort to burnish its image, peddle its influence, and increase its market share.
The uproar over the Wal-Mart bribery scandal in Mexico uncovered last month evokes the famous distinction between “dishonest graft” and “honest graft” made by George Washington Plunkitt, a Tammany Hall politician in the early 1900s. Dishonest graft, Plunkitt explained, involves bribes and blackmail.
This week the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor sent letters to every elected official in L.A. County (including Congress members), urging them to return all campaign contributions they may have received from Walmart – and to refuse future donations from the retail giant. The letter, which is signed by a broad spectrum of union leaders, juxtaposes Walmart’s alleged bribery scheme in Mexico with L.A. City Hall’s quick approval of the corporation’s permits for a new store in Chinatown. (The letter’s text appears below.)
“It doesn’t take campaign finance reform,” the signatories say, “to prevent Walmart from wrapping its tentacles around our political system in L.A. County.”