Wal-Mart and Aristocracy

From a NYT piece highlighting some leaked confidential internal Wal-Mart communications (via Huffington Post):

In a confidential, internal Web site for Wal-Mart’s managers, the company’s chief executive, H. Lee Scott Jr., seemed to have a rare, unscripted moment when one manager asked him why “the largest company on the planet cannot offer some type of medical retirement benefits?”

[…]

But its tone is at times biting. In his response to the store manager who asked about retiree health benefits, Mr. Scott wrote: “Quite honestly, this environment isn’t for everyone. There are people who would say, ‘I’m sorry, but you should take the risk and take billions of dollars out of earnings and put this in retiree health benefits and let’s see what happens to the company.’ If you feel that way, then you as a manager should look for a company where you can do those kinds of things.”

[…]

Commenting on a labor union that is fighting Wal-Mart’s expansion plans in New York City and elsewhere, Mr. Scott wrote in the Web site, “that way its members’ employers” — meaning many Wal-Mart competitors — “can continue to charge extremely high prices for food and tolerate poor service.”

[…]

The Web site shows many sides of one of the nation’s most powerful executives. He denounces managers who complain about the company or their subordinates. He frets about the success of his discount rival Target. He exhorts employees to act with integrity. He mocks General Motors for problems caused by its generous benefits. He rejects a manager’s suggestion that Wal-Mart has created “a culture of fear,” and he hails Wal-Mart’s performance in responding to Hurricane Katrina.

[…]

But his responses often serve to remind managers of the gap between them and their chief executive, who earned more than $17 million last year, including stock options, who hops around the globe on Wal-Mart’s fleet of jets and who lives in a gated community called Pinnacle.

“I recently had dinner with the prime minister of the U.K., Tony Blair, and his wife; my wife and I had a meeting with Prince Charles to talk about sustainability; and I met with Steve Case, the founder of AOL, and talked about health care,” Mr. Scott wrote in a two-week-old entry describing how he represents Wal-Mart around the world.

Translation: “Let them eat cake”

The Walton family sits among the top ten richest people in the US, clocking in, if I’m not mistaken, at over ten billion dollars each. Yet the contempt that their company has for its employees, when it comes to any form of benefits or just compensation, is legendary.

Wal Mart is the poster child for economic inequality, aristocracy and oligarchy in America. Executives fly around on private jets in social circles of the rich and powerful; employees can’t get a living wage.

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