Wal-Mart makes efforts to sway public opinion

CNJ staff

After winning the war for the public’s dollars, Wal-Mart has launched a battle for public opinion. And after years of simply rolling with the punches of those who’ve been warning the retail giant is destroying everything from our neighborhoods to the nation’s economy, it’s about time.

In full-page newspaper ads, Wal-Mart President and CEO Lee Scott declares that while his company “is working for everyone … Some of our critics are working only for themselves.” He doesn’t name those critics, but it’s a fair assumption that he’s talking about the labor unions that have been vilifying Wal-Mart for years because it has remained non-union.

Scott goes on to point out, among other things, that Wal-Mart pays decent wages and benefits, promotes from within, and helps charities across the country. If you missed the ad, the company has launched a new Web site: http://www.walmartfacts.com/ to counter the long-running negative propaganda campaign against it.

While it’s good to see Wal-Mart finally fighting back, we don’t expect this to silence the critics. It likely will provoke further attacks.

Meanwhile, there are legitimate concerns about the impact Wal-Mart is having on communities, retail markets and wages. Residents who’ve voiced concerns about giant Wal-Marts, or other so-called big-box retailers, moving into their neighborhoods deserve to be heard.

Indeed, many cities have changed their zoning codes to ensure such major retail operations are located where residential neighborhoods won’t be disrupted and roads are adequate to handle the traffic.

Perhaps the most unfair and misleading attacks on Wal-Mart have to do with its hiring, pay, benefits and promotion policies, and Scott’s message answers them. He essentially describes Wal-Mart as a meritocracy, which hires, retains, pays and promotes employees based on qualities every employer values, such as dependability and hard work.

Wal-Mart is both successful and despised because it has tenaciously and effectively guarded its meritocracy. In short, it has kept out the unions, which push for higher pay and benefits and job security across the board.

The waning influence and membership of unions are symptomatic of the need by American business to adopt merit-based employment policies if they are to be competitive in today’s rigorous, global marketplace. And it’s good to see Wal-Mart’s chief explain how that not only is good for his company’s bottom line, but for employees and communities as well.