The Circle Isn’t a Square

by Don Boudreaux on June 22, 2011

in Myths and Fallacies, Wal-Mart, Work

Opining in today’s New York Times, history professor Nelson Lichtenstein asserts that Wal-Mart uses an “authoritarian style, by which executives pressure store-level management to squeeze more and more from millions of clerks, stockers and lower-tier managers.”  Then he scolds Wal-Mart for being so bigoted that it erects “obstacles to women’s advancement.”

This tale is highly improbable.

A company that squeezes maximum possible profits from its workers does not refuse to promote women simply because of their sex.  Such refusals would leave money on the table by keeping many employees in lower-rank positions even though those employees would add more to the company’s bottom line by being promoted to higher-rank positions.  Conversely, a company that indulges its taste for bigotry is not a company intent on squeezing as much profit as possible from its employees.

If Ms. Jones can add thousands of dollars to Wal-Mart’s annual profits by working as a manager, rather than hundreds of dollars by working as a cashier, squeezing “more and more” from her requires that Wal-Mart promote her to manager.

It’s simply unbelievable that a company with Wal-Mart’s record of consistently wringing profits from razor-thin retail margins intentionally – or even negligently – wastes the talents of large numbers of its employees by using them in ways that do not add maximum value to Wal-Mart’s bottom line.

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{ 130 comments }

vidyohs June 22, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Amen!

Observer_Guy1 June 22, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Mr. Lichtenstein is simply bitter at the recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision in favor of Wal Mart.

I wish I understood people’s loathing of Wal Mart. Perhaps their status as the number one retailer makes for an easy target.

vikingvista June 22, 2011 at 7:09 pm

“I wish I understood people’s loathing of Wal Mart.”

1. It is not unionized.
2. It is a capitalist success.

Observer_Guy1 June 22, 2011 at 7:15 pm

True, but so is Target. Why is Target not dragged through the mud like Wal Mart? Perhaps Target makes the right kind of political donations.

There’s something special about Wal Mart that government types simply hate and it’s vexing. Wal Mart provides job to tens of thousands and low prices to millions. They make millionaires out of (some) suppliers. What’s to hate?

Frank33328 June 22, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Wal Mart typically caters to lower income customers than does Target. If you customers are lower income, then you are either an exploiter……. or the government.

Observer_Guy1 June 22, 2011 at 7:33 pm

*Like*

Acertainflorentine June 22, 2011 at 7:35 pm

YES!

Methinks1776 June 22, 2011 at 7:42 pm

LIKE

brotio June 23, 2011 at 3:03 am

*like*

Gordon Richens June 23, 2011 at 7:45 am

Besides, the left is more apt to shop at Target.

Harold Cockerill June 23, 2011 at 9:14 am

Like

Guy June 24, 2011 at 2:28 am

“then you are either an exploiter……. or the government.”

Redundancy.

vikingvista June 22, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Perhaps because Mark Dayton is socialist? Target bloomed in the blue North, Wal-Mart in the red South?

But seriously, although I firmly believe that the Left hold low income people and their lifestyles in utter contempt, I think the main reason is that Wal-Mart has had much more publicity as an American and capitalist success story, mostly stemming from Sam Walton’s rise to the richest man in the world.

Steve_0 June 22, 2011 at 9:36 pm

One million points to V V.

muirgeo June 23, 2011 at 1:18 am

A capitalist success made by trading with communist…. yeah that makes sense.

Randy June 23, 2011 at 6:58 am

Interesting point… But I don’t think that living in a region ruled by a brand name political organization automatically makes me a part of said organization. That is, I’m not a progressive, I’m a trader – and it seems there must be traders in China too… or there wouldn’t be any trade with China.

Kevin R. June 22, 2011 at 7:12 pm

The people I know that dislike Walmart dislike it because of the “dead peasant’s insurance” on their employees. Basically, if one of their employees die, they make some money. I remember that being on the news a lot back in 2009.

SheetWise June 22, 2011 at 8:38 pm

Well … if they’re the beneficiary, and they’re not killing them, then it’s probably not a great investment. So tell me more.

Methinks1776 June 22, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Huh. Do they also make Matzo from the blood of the employees’ babies?

Steve_0 June 22, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Did you say you were already married? I think I just fell in love.

vikingvista June 23, 2011 at 12:43 am

Yeah, Steve_0, she’s broken many a heart here at the Cafe.

Methinks1776 June 23, 2011 at 11:40 am

Awe. Thanks. Mr. Methinks has been stuck with me for nearly twenty years. The man is a saint.

muirgeo June 23, 2011 at 4:07 pm

And I just threw up a little bit….

brotio June 24, 2011 at 4:10 am

And I just threw up a little bit… – Yasafi

That makes Stevo-O’s comment the Comment of the Day!

Josh S June 23, 2011 at 12:40 pm

It’s mathematically impossible to make money by *buying* insurance. Not unless your insurer is gradually going bankrupt by taking you as a client. But people who believe Walmart is profiting from its employees’ deaths tend to also believe insurance companies are money-hungry profiteers, too…which is it?

Mao_Dung June 23, 2011 at 3:07 am

You are a mental midget compared to “bitter” old Lichtenstein. What are your credentials? What is the depth and breadth of your studies and experience? Just as I thought; you escaped from your job at Wal-Mart. Or was it McDonalds or Taco Bell? Back to work, troll! Somebody has to slave for the rich. It ought to be a patsy like you.

lamp3 June 23, 2011 at 1:35 pm

I denounce Mao_Dung for opportunistic thoughts and ideals. He distributes vile, counterrevolutionary propaganda against the proletariat in Wal*Mart and appeals to bourgeois authority.

Za Rodinu!

John Dewey June 22, 2011 at 6:57 pm

I guess Nelson Lichtenstein forgot to inform these women about the obstacles to women’s advancement:

Rosalind Brewer is executive vice president and president of Walmart East, leading the east geographic business unit of Walmart U.S. She oversees nearly 1,600 stores spanning from Maine to Puerto Rico.

M. Susan Chambers serves as the executive vice president of the Global People Division for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Walmart). She is responsible for managing, attracting and retaining the nation’s largest private workforce.

Cindy Davis is executive vice president of Global Customer Insights.

Linda Hefner is executive vice president and chief merchandising officer for Sam’s Club, a division of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

Gisel Ruiz is the executive vice president of people for Walmart U.S. In this role she has responsibility for human resources functions for all Walmart U.S. associates, including talent management and compensation.

Steve_0 June 22, 2011 at 9:45 pm

They also just hired one of the MBA’s from the previous year’s class. She interned there during the summer, they loved her, and made her an offer. She said she’d love to work with the company but likes the big city and just couldn’t do Arkansas. So they said how bout working in LA and flying to Arkansas occasionally. They are not stupid, they take and promote good talent.

Mao_Dung June 23, 2011 at 5:30 am

“They are not stupid …”

No, you’re the insultingly stupid one. You’re saying that 1.4 million women who never had a real chance at advancement like their male counterparts were all not “good talent.” You have no talent at all as far as I can tell.

Steve_0 June 23, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Ad hominem much?

I challenge you to find the words you just claimed I said, anywhere in my post. I have anecdotal evidence that they aggressively seek out and negotiate to get in very talented female managers. Others here have already posted other anecdotal evidence of high ranking C-suite female executives at Walmart.

I’m not certain what your point is, other than to open with a direct insult. I will, however, be looking forward to your retail chain, run with your expertise on how to do it better than Walmart.

Mao_Dung June 23, 2011 at 5:21 am

Lichtenstein has forgotten more than you will ever know. Listing 5 names that supposedly belong to females proves nothing. Why do you waste your time here when you could get a management job at Wal-Mart? Put on skirt and some make-up and I’ll say a little prayer for you. I’ll make you half Latina while I’m at it – Juana Dewey. You are so disgustingly patronizing that it makes me sick.

If Wal-Mart had no blacks or women in management positions they’d have a serious public relations problem for starters. The class action lawsuit was on behalf of 1.4 million women who were unable to advance because of bad practices at thousands of Wal-Marts around the country, and you have the gall to look up a few names. I really want to know what motivates you to behave so insouciantly about the plight of mistreated, unfortunate workers. I hope you find no advancement in your job for the next 20 years. In fact, you deserve to be unemployed with an attitude like that. You will be, I’m sure. What goes around comes around.

Gordon Richens June 23, 2011 at 8:04 am

“The class action lawsuit was on behalf of 1.4 million women…”
…and they lost.

Hasdrubal June 23, 2011 at 11:26 am

I like law blog Overlawyered’s take: “The message of this ruling is simple: Employees have to prove that they have been legally wronged, not just cash in because somebody else was.”

Josh S June 23, 2011 at 12:45 pm

“If Wal-Mart had no blacks or women in management positions they’d have a serious public relations problem for starters.”

So you don’t believe that any of Walmart’s female or black managers have the talent, ability, or record of success to deserve their positions. Do you believe any women or black people are competent enough to deserve promotions?

Mao_Dung June 23, 2011 at 1:02 pm

I believe that you are thoroughly incompetent at whatever you are hired to do. I know that because you are thoroughly incompetent in your use of your free time to scribble graffiti on blogs of dubious and reactionary content. I also know that you are not a black female Wal-Mart employee. They are head and shoulders superior to you in every category that matters. Your lack of thinking illustrates that fact.

Jack Burton Mercer June 24, 2011 at 4:33 pm

You have successfully avoided answering Josh’s question.

Manfred June 23, 2011 at 10:44 am

Wasn’t Hillary Rodham Clinton on the Board of Directors of Walmart?

vikingvista June 23, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Of course. Shakedowns work.

W.E. Heasley June 22, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Wal-Mart’s Authoritarian Culture by Nelson Lichtenstein

“In the 1950s and ’60s, northwest Arkansas, where Wal-Mart got its start, was poor, white and rural, in the midst of a wave of agricultural mechanization that generated a huge surplus of unskilled workers. To these men and women, the burgeoning chain of discount stores founded by Sam Walton was a godsend. The men might find dignity managing a store instead of a hardscrabble farm, while their wives and daughters could earn pin money clerking for Mr. Sam, as he was known.”

Lets see, 1950’s and 1960’s poor, rural, hardscrabble farmers. Then comes Wal-Mart and dignity is restored!

“….the Supreme Court leaves millions of service-sector workers with few avenues to escape the grinding work life and limited opportunities that so many now face“.

Lets see part two: [Wal-Mart] grinding work life and limited opportunities.

Hence Wal-Mart is a dignity restorer and a godsend when that lends itself to a notional argument point yet Wal-Mart is grinding work life and limited opportunities when you want to make an opposite notional argument point….within the same greater argument to boot. Apparently Nelson “Duchy of Grand Fenwick” Lichtenstein wanted to roar…well at least create some cheap content for a dying newspaper. Very nice!

muirgeo June 22, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Wow… what an example of faith believing that markets and corporations always act on price and productivity alone. I guess you believe golden parachutes for CEO’s who have bankrupted their companies also occur because the price mechanism works to perfection for the price mechanism IS the Invisible Hand of God…. and indeed the corporate structure IS paradoxically authoritarian.

Also, when you are a corporation in rural Red State America it may make more sense to go along with the culture that believes women should be barefoot and pregnant and not CEO’s… so there could be more to this as a profit based scheme than meets the eye.

Methinks1776 June 22, 2011 at 7:42 pm

I like your addition of “of God”. Nice touch. Although, I’m confused because this is inconsistent with your previous drooling….I mean, “deep thoughts”. Is it the “invisible hand god” or the “invisible hand OF god”. Is the hand, in your estimation, the god itself or is it merely the appendage of god?

…and indeed the corporate structure IS paradoxically authoritarian.

Damn straight…I mean, indeed, you are correct. My bet is that your household is also. As soon as I stop giggling every time I have to say it, I will come to Vacaville, California and liberate your minor children from your tyranny – and that of all such tyrants in your neighbourhood. There is no excuse for authoritarianism on any level.

Upton Ethelbah June 22, 2011 at 9:08 pm

I love your posts, Methinks!

Greg Webb June 22, 2011 at 9:47 pm

I love your posts as well Methinks1776. It’s nice to see some actual logical and coherent arguments supported with evidence and not the typical hateful and incoherent rantings of statists.

Methinks1776 June 23, 2011 at 11:41 am

Merci to both of you.

muirgeo June 23, 2011 at 1:23 am

Methinks… the Authoritarian Libertarian Invisible Hand God Priestess.
LOL!

brotio June 23, 2011 at 3:11 am

I see you’re still not updating us on your plans to open a private practice, where all your staff gets 40-hours of pay for 32-hours of work. You’ve insisted this is a path to prosperity, so are you ready to prosper?

Just think (lol), you could show that eeevil Kaiser how to run a business!

Methinks1776 June 23, 2011 at 11:41 am

Is that like one of Obama’s czars?

muirgeo June 23, 2011 at 9:12 pm

No…it’s much much more SILLY!

kyle8 June 22, 2011 at 8:08 pm

Once again you prove that your ignorance is matched only by your hatefulness and bigotry.

crazyjetguy June 22, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Every time muir posts I get a headache trying to sort the contradictions.

muirgeo June 23, 2011 at 1:24 am

“Every time muir posts I get a headache trying to sort the contradictions.” crazyjetguy

Yeah between what I say and what you believe.

Josh S June 23, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Between what you say and reality.

Seth June 23, 2011 at 1:16 pm

I thought it was just between what he says.

muirgeo June 23, 2011 at 4:15 pm

“Between what you say and reality.” Josh S

That’s becasue you’re not used to dealing in reality. The libertarian mind is not well suited to live in relaity… it needs to be confined to its own construct.

What you all need is a Matrix like world where we can plug you all in to live happily ever after while those of us based in reality can address the issues.

vikingvista June 23, 2011 at 1:53 am

His posts are the linguistic versions of Rorschach tests.

Steve_0 June 22, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Walmart doesn’t have to be an institution of the devil, nor the angelic savior of mankind. Maybe they are a profit motivated company and perhaps there is even an underlying sexism. Who knows. I don’t.

What is axiomatic, is that for the people who choose to work there, it is their best choice among the choices they have to work, not work, work elsewhere, whatever. Every employee of Walmart has the option to apply, they have to try to get hired- no one conscripts them. No one chains them. They are free to find other employment. The shoppers are also voluntary.

Since you are an expert in how to run a retail operation, I fully expect to see your line of retail stores expand rapidly in the coming years. You will obviously have advantages attracting employees with your generosity, desire to help the poor, and non-sexist even-handed treatment of employees.

Ryan Vann June 23, 2011 at 10:16 am

That is basically the beginning and end of what needs to be said about Wal-mart.

Isaac June 23, 2011 at 7:11 pm

I didn’t give this too much thought at first, but perhaps the shift in opinion has to do with the recent podcast where Russ interviews Mike Munger. Wal-Mart employees make the decision to work there voluntarily, but do they do so euvoluntarily? If your best alternative to the negotiated agreement or BATNA, is particularly disparate, then perhaps not.

Sam Grove June 22, 2011 at 11:59 pm

what an example of faith believing that markets and corporations always act on price and productivity alone.

I thought that was your main charge against corporations.

Stephen June 24, 2011 at 11:06 am

Golden parachutes are easily compatible with the pricing system.

Compensation is offered to ensure the quick exit of a failing executive. Paying a few million dollars to prevent the loss of billions is an easy trade.

Methinks1776 June 22, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Waaaaait a minute. I have been lead to believe Wal-Mart is the most evil institution in human history. The Nazis were better.

So, why do they strive to force promotions of women in this exploitative cult? Why not help these damsels in distress escape the evil fortress instead of demanding they (undeservedly) rise in its ranks? Why throw these poor womyn into the open jaws of the beast? Perhaps their willingness to sue to compel employment for womyn in such a hellish place means that they are the ones who are sexist. If they aren’t, I would expect to see them put down their placards, abandon their lawsuits and start enterprises in order to lure these poor dames away from the this cold, dark cave and into the light.

Mesa Econoguy June 22, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Bonus points for using the gender-corrective “womyn” militant feminist spelling

Methinks1776 June 22, 2011 at 9:00 pm

I have to give it up for mah sistahs who toil in anonymity to defend my right to force companies who they claim don’t want me and and hate my guts to employee me in any capacity I choose. Don’t you think that people who strive to stuff us womyn into hostile work environments deserve a shout-out?

Mesa Econoguy June 22, 2011 at 9:46 pm

Yo.

And hang in there, womyns, cause Dodd-Frank gots you covered wit some quotazzz….

Don Boudreaux June 22, 2011 at 9:56 pm

*LIKE*

Tim June 22, 2011 at 7:42 pm

The other possibility is that Walmart isn’t intent on wringing every drop of profit but instead does want to discriminate against women.

vikingvista June 22, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Then like most of us who hear these bizarre accusations, you have to ask, “Uhh…but why? Because they smell nice?”

Methinks1776 June 22, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Well, then Wal-Mart punishes itself and we needn’t waste the court’s time.

These women certainly don’t bear the cost of such discrimination. I mean, if these women are as fantastically qualified as they say, then other employers will get into a bidding war for their labour. By giving up the opportunity to buy their labour (and cheaply, at that – most women stupidly don’t bargain very hard), Wal-Mart gives up the advantage to its competitors.

DG Lesvic June 22, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Wow! Another of your classics.

This one sure belongs in your book, and the economist’s Hall of Fame.

Molon Lobe June 22, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Just another discontented ivory tower type. Ever notice how much rage these worthless idots have because no one recognizes how brillant they are? Just because they couldn’t run a whorehouse they think they could build a bigger and better corporation than WalMart.

WalMart spans the world. The Left hates it because it shows what energy, better ideas, and hard work can do. Target is a poor second, because it is lets face it a joke.

Whiskey Jim June 22, 2011 at 9:16 pm

On the contrary, one of the findings of the court was that women make up 70% of the hourly workers, by far the largest sub-group of workers.

This is clearly a travesty of social justice. We call on Congress to force Wal-mart to hire more male workers in fair representation of their population.

Workers of the world unite! BTW, are they the right colors too?

Spike June 22, 2011 at 9:51 pm

I worked for NCR, which provides WalMart with their Data Warehouse System (Teradata). It is the largest database in the world, and monitors EVERYTHING that happens in the store. It adjusts prices according to the local market instantaneously.

Finding “the market” for a million items allows them to sell more stuff, and maximize profitibability on a per item basis. This is their differentiation.

As others have said, they would be foolish to suppress female employees. I guarantee that the women that filed the initial suit, were Liberals.

Isaac June 22, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Whether whats going in at Wal-Mart is discrimination or not is less clear to me. On the one hand I agree that it makes little sense for Wal-Mart to discriminate in choosing candidates for management and corporate promotions. Passing up female candidates, who are intimately familiar with day-to-day operations, in favor of male, candidates who are less qualified, makes little sense.

But this begs the question, “why is Wal-Mart’s corporate culture such an old boys club?” Did Wal-Mart discriminate against women despite the loss of productivity? Are Wal-Mart women just not as good as men at those jobs? I somehow don’t think either of those explanations makes a ton of sense. I would offer this humble alternative theory. In order to minimize management costs and build a corporate culture that runs smoothly, it’s important that managers and execs communicate well and get along. Otherwise meetings will drag on, memos will be misunderstood, and needless conflicts will increase. So when deciding who to promote, it only makes sense if you promote people who are like you, who can get along with their peers, and who will require relatively less training. So if you’re a man, it’s far more likely that you’ll decide to mentor other men, before you’ll mentor other women.

Captain Profit June 23, 2011 at 8:39 am

“Isaac” wrote:
> it only makes sense if you promote people who are like you

Despite (presumably) having similar junk, muirgeo and Mao_Dung are nothing like me. As a matter of fact, I feel more kinship with Methinks1776 than either of them. Do you find this queer?

STATISTICULOUS June 23, 2011 at 11:39 am

“Do you find this queer?”
In what sense?

Captain Profit June 23, 2011 at 12:59 pm

The sense of entitlement…

Isaac June 23, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Do I find this queer? Not at all. But I’m not sure I find this to be a very relevant comparison. On the Internet, nobody can tell whether your gender unless you make it obvious.

Methinks1776 June 23, 2011 at 4:24 pm

We all know that Mao’s Dung and Muirdiot are men and I’m a woman. We’ve each identified ourselves as men or women. Unless you mean something else by “obvious”.

Isaac June 23, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Fair enough, I just don’t read comments frequently enough to know who’s male and who’s female.

Methinks1776 June 23, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Isaac,

I’m with Captain Profit. I don’t agree at all with your post. I’ve been in the most male dominated part of a male dominated industry for the entirety of my professional life. Never had a problem with communications, misunderstandings, needless conflict, etc. Before I went out on my own, I was more often than not paid more than my male colleagues and was always offered promotions. Culturally, I fit in and so did the other women who were successful.

The problem is that some women would like to force the culture to change to suit their whims rather than change themselves to fit the existing culture. The existing culture results from the demands of the business. Changing it would mean the business doesn’t work. I’m not a fan of breaking things that work just fine to suit the whims of people who don’t think that personal preferences require personal sacrifice.

vikingvista June 23, 2011 at 1:42 pm

I can anecdotally second-handedly confirm that. A woman close to me embodies the no-bullshit bottom-line unforgiving world of high finance, and her rise in that male-dominated world has been meteoric.

It isn’t at all about Y chromosomes. It is about results.

Isaac June 23, 2011 at 3:19 pm

I’m not here to make judgements about you or the field that you’re in.Yet no matter how egalitarian your workplace is, it has no bearing on the state of Wal-Mart’s corporate culture(presuming that you do not in fact work at Wal-Mart).

I want to be clear that I’m not trying to say that anyone should be trying to fix Wal-Mart’s corporate culture. The theory I presented is not a normative theory, but a positive one. If you disagree, disagree because you have some kind of evidence that contradicts this theory.

Methinks1776 June 23, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Isaac,

I was going to say that John Dewey provided the evidence you asked for upthread, but I see he’s already reminded you of that. A response to his post provides another example of Wal-Mart bending over backwards to accommodate an executive they wanted – a woman, in that case.

One of the complaints against Wal-Mart is that it requires managers at a certain level to move to another store and that women with children find that a more difficult task than single men. Well, duh. That’s one of the downsides of reproducing – and a choice the woman makes. Wal-Mart is running a business, not a social club. Requiring the same of their female executives as they do of their male executives does not constitute a “boys club”.

vikingvista June 23, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Egalitarian?

Methinks1776 June 23, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Egalitarian?

Obviously never worked on Wall Street. I was taken aside by one Managing Director and given the “this is no business for a young lady” speech. I had a boss who held meetings in strip clubs, thought all women working on WS were just looking for an MRS and couldn’t do math. And never mind what used to happen when a woman walked onto the floor of a securities exchange (like walking past 1,000 construction sites). Although I am the founding partner of my firm, when I answer my own phone, I’m assumed to be the secretary. And that’s just what I remember off the top of my head.

vikingvista June 23, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Maybe where he is from “egalitarian” is synonymous with “success driven”, but where I am from it is an odd word choice.

Isaac June 23, 2011 at 6:58 pm

@Methinks

If you ask me to weigh a single anecdote of one women being courted for a corporate position and a list of 5 female executives against the anecdotes of the more than 500,000 women involved in the class action suit, I hope it’s understandable that I’m more convinced by the latter.

@vikingvista

By egalitarian I meant fair. Methinks described a situation where she was rewarded for her hard work, which is fair isn’t it? I’m not sure I understand the confusion.

vikingvista June 23, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Because “egalitarian” means “equal”. Equal is definitely not fair, and the business environment I was referring to was neither. My point is that success in such an environment is not prohibitive to women. What is sexist and false, is the belief that women, because they are women, cannot successfully play that game. Successful men don’t turn down profit just because it comes from a double X-er.

Methinks1776 June 23, 2011 at 8:12 pm

Isaac,

Do you really think 500,000 women were wrongly denied promotions? Does that number not seem a bit high?

I get letters asking me to join class action law suits weekly. Literally. It’s appalling. All you need to qualify for the Wal-Mart class action lawsuit is two X chromosomes, to have at one time or another worked at Wal-Mart, and the ability to mark the appropriate box before mailing back the paperwork to the attorney. If the class action suit is successful, they’ll get a small check. It it isn’t, they won’t. No skin off their nose either way.

I set much more store by the examples John Dewey put forth than a bunch of women who joined a class action lawsuit on a whim.

Dan June 23, 2011 at 8:40 pm

I think that Isaac assumes since a suite was filed and the lawyer looked to include any and all women who ever worked there, that individual and specific evidence not be necessary since the case was brought anyways.
The fact that the case was brought and that it is a mega-corp. is sufficient evidence that a wrong had occurred.
By the way, I have found that promotion of individuals into managment roles or above is best to have them move to a new location, if possible. This is common practice.

Isaac June 23, 2011 at 8:54 pm

@vikingvista

Fair enough, I don’t think that all feminists would agree with you there, but the feminist movement lost any kind of cohesiveness after the second wave. I acknowledge and respect your point of view.

vikingvista June 24, 2011 at 12:44 am

Isaac,

Very polite of you. Please don’t be afraid to throw one back at me with both fists. It makes me feel better about my own MO.

Pete June 24, 2011 at 12:05 pm

“her rise…has been meteoric”.

I never understood that idiom. Aren’t meteors are falling to their imminent fiery destruction? Maybe her rise has been space shuttle-ific :-) .

John Dewey June 23, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Isaac: “why is Wal-Mart’s corporate culture such an old boys club?”

What evidence do you have that it is?

Above I listed five women who are currently holding the positions of Executive Vice President at WalMart. Do you have any idea how much power is delegated to executive vice presidents at large corporations? If WalMart was an “old boys club”, these women would not have these positions.

John Dewey June 23, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Isaac: “But this begs the question, “why is Wal-Mart’s corporate culture such an old boys club?”

Why do you believe this, Isaac?

Each year, the National Assoication of Female Executives selects the Top 50 Companies for Executive Women, a list which:

“recognizes companies whose policies and practices encourage women’s advancement and whose representation of women at the highest levels of leadership demonstrates that commitment.”

WalMart made the list in 2008, 2010, and 2011.

John Dewey June 23, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Walmart made NAFE’s Top 50 list in 2009 as well.

Isaac June 23, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Pardon me John Dewey. I had imagined Wal-Mart having a corporate culture more reminiscent of the way Methinks described her time in Wall Street. Perhaps my thinking was misguided.

Methinks1776 June 23, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Yet, Isaac, I have been very successful in my career – helped along by those very same men. Those testosterone drenched environments in which I chose to work were that way because the business demanded it. Not only were many women not successful in that environment, but many more men were not. Despite the challenges, women were and are successful because few of those men who were truly sexist would ever allow their personal opinion of women to stand in the way of making money. When they did, they lost. And I have to say, there is an advantage to being underestimated. It’s easier to blindside your opponent.

John Dewey June 24, 2011 at 4:02 am

Isaac: “I had imagined Wal-Mart having a corporate culture more reminiscent of the way Methinks described her time in Wall Street.”

It is possible that in 2000, when the class action suit was filed, WalMart did have such a culture. I really do not know. I doubt that it was, as I have had numerous encounters with female WalMart managers.

My objection was to your assertion that WalMart is today a “good old boys club”. I appreciate that you have acknowledged that you may have been incorrect.

Ken June 23, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Isaac,

“Are Wal-Mart women just not as good as men at those jobs?”

The answer to this question is that no, Wal-Mart women are not as good as men at those jobs. And the reasons for that is straight forward and obvious; they are the same reasons women on average make 25% less than what men make. Here is a small reason:

1. Women choose family time over work time.
2. Because of 1., men spend more time at work.
3. Because of 2., men become more proficient than women at work

Of course, these choices are not true for some particular women, but on average, this is true. Men on average also pursue money and status more than women, so men on average end up with more money and status.

This is wholly separate from the question that if a woman and man pursue the same job with the same zeal will they end up with the same pay? The question to that has been answered as well. The answer is yes. Women with the same work experience and education make the same as men.

Regards,
Ken

Dan June 23, 2011 at 8:48 pm

I think that this women make 25% less is not a fair generalization. In some cases, this may be true as a practice. But, to be fair (as so many wish to do…whatever the hell fair means), many women take time off for parenting or other factors that men biologically are without.
two people………one man….one woman…….same type of job………pretty much equal in duties and responsibilities and performance…………… woman takes off 6 months or longer for FMLA/parenting/giving birth………… the woman comes back and ……………. should make same amount of money as the man, after any merit increases….while she is gone or even after she comes back?
How is that fair to the man who still worked over the course of that time while the woman was out?
It is not.
That is just one of the factors into the gender ‘inequality’ in regards to pay.

Ken June 23, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Dan,

“I think that this women make 25% less is not a fair generalization. ”

It’s simply a fact, not a generalization. If F = the average income of women and M = the average income of men, the F/M = .75 roughly. I explained why that is in my comment above (men and women make different career and life choices).

“But, to be fair (as so many wish to do…whatever the hell fair means), many women take time off for parenting or other factors that men biologically are without.”

Yeah, I said the same thing when I said ” Women choose family time over work time.”

Your comment says exactly the same thing as my comment. I”m not really sure what bone you’re picking with my comment.

Regards,
Ken

John Dewey June 24, 2011 at 7:51 am

Ken: “It’s simply a fact, not a generalization.”

It’s not clear what “fact” you are asserting. Your statement:

“women on average make 25% less than what men make”

is vague and open to interpretation by the reader.

Average wages really do not tell us much, as the very high end wages by a few athletes, entertainers, and CEOs will distort what is actually the reality for almost everyone else.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does provide data about the median wages of men and women in the U.S. The median usual weekly earnings of female full-time wage and salary workers was 80.2% that of men in 2009.

Where did you obtain your data showing that women make 25% less than men make?

Ken June 24, 2011 at 11:21 am

John,

“Average wages really do not tell us much”

Did you even read my comments? This is the ENTIRE point of them.

Regards,
Ken

Ken June 24, 2011 at 11:29 am

John,

And F/M = 0.70, which is even smaller than .75. I got it from the Statistical Abstract of the United States, Table 702.

F = 43305
M = 61783

And it’s only part of the story, since it’s only for full time workers, so doesn’t include part-time workers.

Regards,
Ken

Dan J June 25, 2011 at 11:13 am

Sorry, but your explanation implied ‘knowns’. I guess I just wanted to further delineate.
Now, you further explained merit and how this fact is contradicted.
Your post left open room for interpretation. The ‘fact’ is a distortion of information. Most of you here accept knowns amongst each other. But, when you leave academia, the challenge of changing minds or opinions of those less
educated takes further explanations.
I apologize for my misreading.

I apologize.

DG Lesvic June 22, 2011 at 11:23 pm

The Wal-Mart Controversy

Would you rather be a slave laborer in a Nazi concentration camp or one of the idle rich on Park Avenue, and work without eating or eat without working? Since we work so that we may eat, and sell so that we may buy, sacrificing the buying for the selling confuses the means with the end, and defeats the purpose of trade.

The resistance to Wal-Mart is just more of the “progressive” war against progress, recognizing only the destruction and never the creativity of the “creative destruction of capitalism.” With the same concern for typewriter makers as for the retailers displaced by Wal-Mart, we would never have entered the computer age, with the same concern for buggy-makers, never the automotive age, and same concern for stone-cutters, never emerged from the Stone Age.

Presumably Wal-Mart’s lower prices are at the cost of lower wages and benefits, with public social services making up the difference, and, in effect, subsidizing Wal-Mart. But it couldn’t lure anyone from a higher to a lower paying job. The only ones it could employ at lower than prevailing wage rates were those who had been unemployable at the higher rates, the much talked about “least among us,” an excluded underclass sacrificed for the higher wages of a privileged working class elite. If Wal-Mart was actually shifting the burden from the poorest to the taxpayers, it was simply making the welfare system work as it was supposed to.

The contention that it could afford higher wages and greater benefits is immaterial. Profit is the engine of progress and the compass of the market, and, anything less than the greatest possible profit, a weakened engine and defective compass. So while you may be as charitable as you wish, after business hours, the company itself has a social duty to minimize costs and maximize profit.

There is nothing progressive about protecting unsatisfactory workers at the expense of the consumers, lazy nurses at the expense of the patients, incompetent teachers at the expense of the students, and the past at the expense of the future.

How reminiscent Wal-Mart bashing in America of Jew bashing in Germany, where hatred of Jewish mass merchandisers turned into hatred of all Jews.

Why Wal-Mart and the market having to prove no negative impact on society?

Was National Socialism a positive impact?

Sam Grove June 23, 2011 at 12:05 am

With the same concern for typewriter makers as for the retailers displaced by Wal-Mart, we would never have entered the computer age, with the same concern for buggy-makers, never the automotive age, and same concern for stone-cutters, never emerged from the Stone Age.

Exactly what some people are upset about.

vikingvista June 23, 2011 at 1:44 am

” “progressive” war against progress”

Nice phrase.

DG Lesvic June 23, 2011 at 3:31 am

Me, Sam, and the two V boys would make a good barbershop quartet.

Down by the old John Stuart Mill stream……

Sorry, Methinkers, no women allowed.

Dan J June 23, 2011 at 2:18 am

If the employees were unionized and still at third parties objectionable compensations, there would unlikely to be as many complaints from the progressives about their business practices. So long as the union dues are bing funneled into Democrat coffers, all is well…. Nothing to see here folks.

Ryan Vann June 23, 2011 at 6:57 am

“How reminiscent Wal-Mart bashing in America of Jew bashing in Germany, where hatred of Jewish mass merchandisers turned into hatred of all Jews.”

Are you out of your freaking mind?

DG Lesvic June 23, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Yes.

dean June 23, 2011 at 2:05 am

Isn’t the arguement that women get paid less than men?

Why aren’t Walmart advancing women, they could get the job done for less!!

Dan J June 23, 2011 at 2:31 am

Was this the same lawyer who turned some (legitimate?) cases of discriminatory practices by the Farm Bureau into an all encompassing class suit for individuals who grew a plant, in a pot, on their front porch?

Ryan Vann June 23, 2011 at 6:56 am

“A company that squeezes maximum possible profits from its workers does not refuse to promote women simply because of their sex. Such refusals would leave money on the table by keeping many employees in lower-rank positions even though those employees would add more to the company’s bottom line by being promoted to higher-rank positions.”

Not to be contrarian, but a company like Wal-mart can probably afford to be sexist with their large monopsony power, as well as government favoritism. The quoted statement strikes me as a coldly logical, read unrealistic.

Dan June 23, 2011 at 8:51 pm

What purpose would being ‘sexist’ serve to Wal-mart?

I can only object, minimally, to the factor of consolidation in the Grocery industry. While it may bring about lowered pricing, I am not a fan of consolidation in industries.
Govt loves it…….easier to control 3 or 4 congolomerates than it is to control hundreds of them.

Scott June 23, 2011 at 9:14 am

I don’t think that leftists really know why they don’t like walmart. It’s just part of the propaganda machine, they memorize talking points and march on. I’ve been trying for years to figure out the unifying philosophy of the american liberal ideology and I come up empty. It just seems to be a wildly successful populist based power consolidating contrivance.

Ryan Vann June 23, 2011 at 10:25 am

I don’t personally shop there, but my main gripe has always been that they employ a “sueprdome” approach to funding. A company with as incredible an inventory management system, access to foreign markets (ie serf level wages) and excellent business model as Wal-Mart shouldn’t have to get government funds.

Polly June 23, 2011 at 11:58 am

No one “has to” get government funds. But each level of government rewards businesses, classes, or individuals for reasons including enlarging jobs/tax base, buying votes/political contributions, or making sure a relative never falls on hard times and becomes the politician’s ward.

Why in the world would Wal Mart put itself at a competitive disadvantage by refusing to utilize public money that’s offered (or by declining to negotiate for public money)? It’s hardly Wal Mart’s fault that politicians are so mindlessly profligate with taxpayers’ money.

Pete June 23, 2011 at 12:30 pm

I thought this was a telling quote: “But Wal-Mart makes it impossible for many of them [women] to take that post [assistant store manager], because its ruthless management style structures the job itself as one that most women, and especially those with young children or a relative to care for, would find difficult to accept.”

So Wal-Mart is discriminatory because being a first-line manager doesn’t allow a particular work/life balance? Not buying it. Caring for children or parents is a lifestyle choice; a very noble and popular one but a choice nonetheless. One could choose differently if the job at Wal-Mart was that important.

Steve_0 June 23, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Every argument based on the premise of ignoring trade-offs, must, by logic, be a ploy to take value earned by someone else.

vikingvista June 23, 2011 at 3:15 pm

It also makes the bigoted assumption that men are incapable of that lifestyle choice.

Methinks1776 June 23, 2011 at 4:27 pm

*Like* to all three of you.

Personal choices require personal sacrifices.

Dan June 23, 2011 at 8:55 pm

But, shouldnt’ special exceptions be made for any and all who are not Male and then not white-male and then not white-male Christian……etc.,…..etc.,………
So, the corporation should adjust its business practices for a person based on their gender, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, religion, etc.,..?
I would only say this to be true if they are indeed proven to have engaged in discriminatory practices.

Pete June 24, 2011 at 12:13 pm

By happy coincidence, I listened to Russ’ EconTalk podcast with Mike Munger about “euvoluntary” exchanges while driving to work today. They cover this topic (including working at WalMart) more insightfully than I ever could.

(And my spell checker likes “voluntary”, over “evolutionary” :-) .)

Mark Anthem June 23, 2011 at 5:56 pm

What would this pencil-neck have Walmart use, a democratic style? I can just see the stores go out of business after everyone votes for 3 day work weeks and 2 months of vacation.

MattW June 23, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Would I be leaving money on the table if I didn’t hire a woman who is equally qualified and would perform as well as the man I did hire, but who I would find it more difficult to work with simply because she is a woman?

I first thought of this idea when I read something about waiters. If a white waiter gets bigger tips than a black waiter despite equal performance by any measurable standard, or if customers frequent a restaurant with black waiters less and so the restaurant hires fewer black waiters, or any other similar situation where there is money lost only because of race or gender or whatever other categories of discrimination you think exist, not because of any performance difference, Is there employer discrimination or money left on the table in those types of cases?

Methinks1776 June 23, 2011 at 10:27 pm

IMO, you should not be forced to hire anyone you don’t think you can work with.

Nor should ad campaigns be forced to hire morbidly obese or ugly models and Hooters shouldn’t be forced to hire men (think I’m kidding – that’s an actual case).

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