Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Public Service Announcement

Heads up MNPS parents---I passed racks of SSA at the Rivergate Wal-Mart this afternoon. Or buy online at: Walmart.com

Here's the SSA page and here's the final policy for parental review so you'll know what's allowed. It also enumerates penalties for failure to comply.

Some parents "fixin' to get religion" may want to bone up on what bona fide means before August:

BONA FIDE - Lat. In good faith; without fraud or deceit.


lcreekmo said...

As it turns out, I don't shop at Wal-Mart due to some bona fide religious beliefs that conflict with the way they treat their workers and communities.

Kay Brooks said...

And those bona fide religious beliefs are....

lcreekmo said...

Here's the thing, neither you nor the school system [especially the school system, as an arm of our government] can decide that for me.

I happen to be a lifelong Methodist who believes deeply in social justice and fairness, thanks to my religious upbringing and the tenants of my church. Wal-Mart is well documented as not treating its workers well--I could go on for days with specific examples, and even the most ardent Wal-Mart supporters must recognize the well publicized, documented, systemic cases of this. I also believe, having lived in a small town where it happened, and having researched enough to know that my hometown wasn't alone, that their business practices are predatory and that they don't mind skirting the law to make money. So morally, ethically and religiously, I find it impossible to share any of my assets with them.

I'm surprised that you shop there.

Kay Brooks said...

Most of America shops at Wal-Mart. I'm in good company. I am more and more careful about the individual products I purchase. I do miss the 'made in America' Wal-Mart of yesteryear.

It has been my policy for a long time to support business where I can as a way to communicate to them---this is what you're doing right. Lack of sales they should interpret as lack of support.

So which vendors do meet your moral/religious/ethical criteria? Where do you currently purchase clothing for your family?

lcreekmo said...

I actually find buying clothing to be quite troublesome. I have found that in cases where I feel OK about the store [Target, Costco, Carter's], I often know little about the provenance of the clothing itself.

I feel better about Lands' End because they tell you a bit more about where the clothes come from. I certainly can't afford to buy much from there, though, just a few key pieces.

I also wrestle with buying clothes I know to be made overseas. With certain obvious exceptions, you can assume clothes made in the US were made by workers who are treated fairly according to US labor law. But our labeling laws mean that parts of the clothing could have been made elsewhere, and the clothing assembled here, and it still gets the made in the US tag. At the same time, I'm big on free trade. I think global commerce is critical to helping underdeveloped nations improve their standard of living. But how do we know if those cheap shorts at Target made in an underdeveloped Asian or Latin American country were really made according to standards that would let us sleep at night??

It would definitely be a lot easier if I didn't worry about these things. :) But I do.

Daniel Lewis said...

I am not certain that our labor laws really help as much as our government would like us to think they do. Take something as simple as the minimum wage law. Facts prove that the minimum wage law causes under employment and unemployment. It just follows from logic that a business owner only has a limited amount a funds to spend on wages and benefits. If the government sets a minimum wage or increases the minimum wage above what the employer is presently paying his employees, then naturally the employer must find some way to cut expenses and or raise the price of the product being produced. One way to cut expenses is to hire less people (cause unemployment) or hire the same number of people, but not offer any benefits (underemployment). Then also as an employer is forced to raise wages, he must expect more experience from his employees to fill the position. This means that as the minimum wage rises, the probability of unskilled workers getting an entry level position greatly diminishes. Unskilled workers are condemned to work low skill jobs or no jobs at all. Now as far as Wal-Mart goes, first of all the employees that work for Wal-Mart are free to go work for another company if they choose. Other companies are free to compete with Wal-Mart in the employment market. The last time I checked people are lining up to get a job at Wal-Mart, so conditions and benefits must not be too bad. My wife worked a second job at Wal-Mart a few years back. Secondly many employees tend to stay with Wal-Mart for many years, again the rewards must be offered to keep employees. Now I am sure Wal-Mart has its share of turnover. As for Wal-Mart products as consumers we are free to chose what we want to purchase. The last time I checked, Wal-Mart offers quality products at a reasonable price, which obviously is something that resonates with the many Wal-Mart shoppers. I think companies like K-Mart and Target are trying to imitate what Wal-Mart does because it obviously works. If our government truly operated a free market, then American manufactures could compete with those oversees. Soon we would see discount retailers carrying American made products offered at low prices. I would imagine that if manufacturing were even 50% deregulated prices would decline. Another thing our government could do is remove many of taxes on products made in America. According to Americans for Tax Reform, 26% - 75% of the cost of a product is actually attributed to taxes. A company making a can of soda for example is hit with 15 different taxes. Pointing fingers at Wal-Mart for importing products that are reasonably priced, when much of the cost of American products is due to taxation and regulation is absurd. Since the cost increasing regulations and taxes come from our own government, we should hold them responsible. Next time you go to the gas pump remember that about 54% of what you are paying for gas is taxes and regulatory fees.

Daniel Lewis

lcreekmo said...

When Wal-Mart stops breaking the law, and acting as a predator on small business, I'll stop pointing the finger at them.

Daniel Lewis said...

lcreekmo you make an interesting point, but I would have to get some specifics on which laws Wall-Mart is breaking. Using terms such as "predator" makes me wonder if you are refereeing to some sort of anti-trust types of laws, and these laws may not be as good as some think. If the competition from a big company like Wall-mart drives down prices, that is good for consumers. Of course a big company like Wall-Mart will have advantages over a small company like buying power to purchase in bulk. To fight this, small businesses could form cooperatives. The fact is that in a free market all businesses will not be equal, and equal businesses will not be free. Now Wall-Mart may do some things we as consumers do not like, the answer is to do what you are doing and take your purchases elsewhere. As an advocate of free markets I think you should be free to shop wherever you like, you should also have the freedom of speech to tell others why you shop where you shop. Ultimately consumers must make choices. When a large number of consumers use a company, they give sanction to that company. By the same logic when a large number of consumers object to the practices of a company and shop elsewhere the company will be forced to change.

The Libertarian Party of Metropolitan Nashville http://www.lpmndc.org advocates achieving change through persuasion rather than force. Indeed persuasion works much better than force. Where injustice prevails we should react by trying to persuade people to follow the course that is right. Restrictive laws, such as those intended to stop predatory practices, actually end up doing more harm than good. It is to easy to say, there ought to be a law. Large companies have lobbyist that they pay to make sure laws get passed that will help them. A law that would really protect small business from a large corporation would never have a chance of getting passed, and even if it did it would probably do more harm then good. Acting with force always
leads to more force.

Daniel Leiws

lcreekmo said...

I'm not in favor of any additional laws or regulations to change Wal-Mart's business practices. I'd simply like them to be held to the same laws as everyone else.

I guess you have not seen the widespread news coverage of their labor practices in the last couple of years, detailing how employees have been locked inside [at more than one location] after hours, some not even allowed to leave to seek medical attention for an employee injured on the job.

Perhaps you are not aware of the many instances of wage discrimination against women, well documented by lawsuits and in the press. And there's no way you could really know about the illegal, under-the-table land grant deal that broke several state laws [with no apparent consequences] when a Wal-Mart was built a few hours from here several years ago. So no, I'm not just speculating. I KNOW they routinely break the law. I'd like to see that stop.

Diane said...

Thank you for the definition of "bono fide". I would like you to add the definition of religion to your blog too. Religion - something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience.
So those who oppose the SSA already have "bono fide" religious beliefs by definition regardless of whatever is put down in an opt out letter, but MNPS have painted themselves into a corner but not having a broader opt-out as other districts do, and now have to walk on eggshells when trying to deny opt-outs on those grounds that the beliefs are not sincerely held or devoutly practiced beliefs, particularly when the beliefs in question are those concerning individuality and free expression. There is no way you or MNPS could ever possibly make that determination from an opt-out letter. Sorry you don't like that little loophole, but "judge not lest ye be judged" Ms.Brooks.