Monday, April 02, 2007

Mud in yo' face, a big disgrace ...

Sunday's News Tribune carried a column by Dan Voelpel, one of my favorite writers there, talking about Wal-Mart considering plopping itself downtown. The timing was horrid. It ran on April 1. And many, including myself, considered a it a bad, bad April Fool's Day joke. As a former journalist, I know it's a rarity that anyone's allowed to actually run an April 1 jokey story. And if it does happen, there sure as hell better be an obvious reference at the end stating that it's a joke. But this was too surreal ... and no mention of gotcha. And apparently this sad story is no joke. Wal-Mart has been inquiring about downtown.

All I can think of is, if this were to happen: What a slap in the face to the unions of Tacoma were that to happen. Tacoma is a union town ... whether Wal-Mart would work or not, you do NOT put a Wal-Mart smack in the middle of T-Town.

While Wal-Mart is hardly the only business to cut corners and run its workers ragged, it has become the veritable poster child for corporate greed and sell-out.

I doubt this is the kind of chain all the chain-enthusiasts on Tacoma-centric blogs have been talking about. All the talk about Whole Foods, Pottery Barn and other upper-class chains doesn't usually have Wal-Mart in the list. But you gotta admit ... it has what these folks have been clamoring for. A known name, an investment, grocery goods, other goods. But on the other hand, I've been a vocal proponent for affordability -- and this isn't what I'm clamoring for either.

Sadly, it would be a draw for downtown. And yes, a merchant that plays for the budget-conscious. And they did it in White Plains, NY.

But hopefully there are enough "conscientious objectors" out there to stave off what could become the inevitable.

Because, sadly, while the types of services that Wal-Mart might want to wedge into downtown is the kind of thing we need, there's something to say about a name. And the name Wal-Mart kind of triggers the up-chuck response in many of us. I don't boycott many places ... but Wal-Mart, you won't catch me there. Give us even a Super Target or a Fred Meyer and we'd be OK ... but a Wal-Mart? I'm sure we'd survive, but it's an ego blow we don't need.

We've been the butt of jokes for too long ... Tacoma's renaissance is about getting beyond that. A downtown Wal-Mart would not just be a slap in the face, it would be a big disgrace ...

1 comment:


Having been royally screwed over by more than one union, I am not as big a union supporter as I once was. Not that I am endorsing Wal-Mart... I can't remember the last time I was in a Wal-Mart... maybe 2002.

Here in Southern California, we are very near yet another strike at grocery stores. Why? Because the previous strike a few years ago was only halted when unions agreed to a stop-gap, two-tiered hiring system that would guarantee another strike in... well... right about now. Back then, they went on strike because the checkers felt that, despite making more than $21 per hour with benefits, they wanted the stores to pay for better benefits plans. At the time, I was making $13 an hour doing, you know, actual work. I felt no guilt crossing the picket lines.

When I began work at the DA's office, I was given two options. The first option was to join the union and have $11 taken out of every paycheck. The second option was to not join the union and only have $9 taken out of every paycheck. When I explained it seemed wrong to be forced to contribute money to a union regardless of whether I joined it, I was told I had no other choice, and I had to decide that moment. Later, the union screwed us out of a 4% pay raise by negotiating and reaching a settlement with the wrong people.

I am a huge fan of what unions used to be (champions of the underdogs, a voice for the voiceless, etc.), but the current state of unions makes me want to puke. That said, I hope Wal-Mart doesn't come to Tacoma because they are the sort of organization unions used to directly confront when they were operating under a social agenda rather than a political one.

One would think they could open a cheese shop downtown... at least then the city could point to it as an excuse for the smell.