Buenos Aires Wal-Mart is a part of Argentina, but only a small part. In the grocery stores here, like Disco, where we went last night, there are hardly any American products actually. The occasional Lays brand of potato chips, American cigarettes and booze (not beer!), some personal products and so forth, but not much food. Controlling the supply chain would be difficult in Argentina for Wal-Mart.
Controlling labor is equally hard. FAECYS, the Argentinean union with commercial jurisdiction within the personeria gremial — the special concept of exclusive union rights in the corporatist scheme going back to Peron has a collective agreement with the Wal-Mart here. The company has to sign up in order to get into the country. That does not mean they have an active union in all Wal-Mart stores, but they could have, if they wanted to do so, but that’s another story. [I am indebted to Brian Finnegan, the country director for the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center www.aflcio.org who spent hours with us in Montevideo at his office outlining all of these complex relationships.]
President Nelson Kirchner had raised the minimum wage per month to $800 pesos only last week. We appreciated the enforcement mechanism for “living wage” campaigns in Buenos Aries. Coming back from Montevideo late at night we were in the middle of a taxi drivers strike (later successful) because they wanted to force their fares to go up in line with the recent increase. They won very quickly. There’s a lot of support for minimum wage increases here.
Just as ACORN and our labor allies have now found in Ohio, Colorado, and elsewhere in turning in the petitions for minimum wage increases. Just as we have found in Chicago in the wake of the raise of the minimum wage for retail workers.
This brings us back to Wal-Mart, as many things do these days, since they are still kicking it up in Chicago in protest of the victory for big box retail workers. For all of the tens of millions they are spending in public relations now (and I realize that many environmentalists and “community” leaders are lining their pockets with this cash, too!), they still can not escape the fact that people know they are a worker bleeding, health care denying, cheap as ass paying company from start to finish. In Chicago they have tried to see if they could hide behind Target. As if Target is so darned pure, I guess. Truth is that all of these companies have about the same business model; they just segmented the market differently to pitch to slightly different families about the same bunch of goods.
In Chicago, led by ACORN and others, Target is now in the bulls-eye, so this Wal-Mart and Mayor Daley strategy of throwing the rock and hiding the hand, is not going to go anywhere. It is a mistake to think that Target is better than Wal-Mart in anything but degree, so we’re with Chicago ACORN, and, say, bring ’em on!
And, let the president of the company know how you feel as well by sending him a message you can find on the front of the website today at www.acorn.org.
August 9, 2006