This week's Buy American Mention isn't as "Buy American" as most of us would like to think or hope. It appears that Wal-Mart is at it again, and although many people tell me that Wal-Mart would be a great place to market my forthcoming second edition of How Americans Can Buy American, I refuse to cater to this company, whose Buy American campaign is, for the most part, a sham. But this is a bridge I am quite willing to burn, and the word needs to get out to the public exactly what this retail giant, who recently replaced General Motors as America's largest employer and West Virginia's largest employer over struggling Weirton Steel, is doing. I already burned that bridge anyway in the first edition by telling readers how Kodak was ditched for Fuji film, processing and chemicals at Wal-Mart in-store mini-labs. The company statement, explaining the switch, was that we would all be better off the sooner we realized how "American" Fuji is. But that's another story.
Anyway, from the December 17th Wall Street Journal, we find that Wal-Mart will pay $6.8 million in fines for trying to screen hopeful job seekers with disabilities. According to the Associated Press, $3.8 million will be paid to 21 former applicants, and another $3 million will be used to set up a fund that allows other previous applicants with disabilities to come forward and provide documentation of being unfairly turned away between 1994 and 1998.
This incident is certainly no red herring. Consider that on August 12, 1999, Wal-Mart was found guilty in federal court for not paying its pharmacists overtime, violating labor laws. The Denver court ordered the defiant company to pay back wages to their affected employees.
But then again Wal-Mart has disregarded court orders before. In July of the same year, Wal-Mart was ordered to pay Tommy Hilfiger $6.4 million for ignoring court orders to stop selling fake Hilfiger apparel. Imagine that! First Wal-Mart is caught red handed selling knockoffs, then they try to continue getting away with it even after being told in court to stop!
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. For a more complete documentation of America's would-be darling retailer, I would recommend the book Slam-Dunking Wal-Mart by Al Norman (none of the above information was taken from that book). Personally, I never set foot inside a Wal-Mart unless I have to. And it's not that I feel K-Mart necessarily sells more American made goods that Wal-Mart, but I would much rather shop there. At least K-Mart doesn't pretend to be something it's not, and I probably have as much of a chance finding "Made in USA" there. And just for the record, neither K-Mart nor Al Norman has compensated me a penny for mentioning them in this column. Oh, I almost forgot - and neither has Wal-Mart.