(Re: “Demand more from Walmart,” May 9.) On April 25, as part of national actions to support Walmart workers seeking higher wages, more hours and more transparent scheduling, I and two friends met with managers at seven area Walmart stores — the Neighborhood Market under construction in Boulder’s Diagonal Mall and the Supercenters in Broomfield, Westminster, Lafayette and Longmont. We delivered information about important corporate changes Walmart’s leaders had committed to make that would provide their “associates” with the size and regularity of hours assignments they need to have sufficient, stable income. We informed the managers that these changes, promised several months ago, had still not been implemented at most stores in the U.S., and encouraged them to assist their staffs by communicating with top management.
In the past decade, Walmart has responded to bad publicity and market forces with policies and practices positioning the company as “green” and community-minded. For example, it was a retail leader in shifting away from selling energy-wasteful incandescent light bulbs, and has reduced packaging for many products. In January, the company, which already claims to be the nation’s largest employer of veterans, pledged to hire 100,000 more.
But what future will new workers face in an organization which pays associates less per year than its CEO makes in a single hour? Michael Duke’s annual salary jumped 14 percent last year, while the vast majority of Walmart staff get no benefits and can’t afford the company’s health insurance. And what of the communities in other countries which bear the terrible burden of supplying at nearly cost the goods Walmart sells for its famously low prices? In Bangladesh, where the company and other multinationals reject proposals for independent inspections of factory safety and working conditions, families of 112 garment workers killed in a fire at one Dhaka suburb production facility are still mourning, while the bodies of more than 1,100 workers have been pulled from the collapsed wreckage of another plant nearby.
For all its trumpeted commitment to social-environmental responsibility, Walmart fails to understand this simple truth: Its workers are part of the environment. Treating them all as well as the rest of the Earth it claims to be protecting, and fully honoring their contributions to the company’s success, is the least it can do. And it should do a lot more if it wants to earn our respect and spending dollars.
To learn about campaigns pushing Walmart toward better corporate citizenship, visit http://corporateactionnetwork.org/campaigns.
Matt Nicodemus, Occupy Boulder’s Don’t Walmart Boulder Working Group/Boulder
Stop, look, listen
When you consider hydraulic fracturing (fracking), please use the familiar rules of safety: “Stop, Look, and Listen.”
Stop. The full effect that fracking is having on our ecosystems is not well known. One reason for this lack of clarity is that nature does not have standing in our court system. What if trees or birds could sue because their water sources are polluted from fracking chemicals? Human activity has altered the biorhythms of the biosphere. We need to develop legal systems and measures of wealth that are in rhythm with nature. Please recall Aldo Leopold’s ethics: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” Fracking is wrong. Stop.
Look. Are we burning down our planet in order to heat our houses? Let’s take a bird’s eye view. A 2011 publication by the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that “over one-third of natural gas produced in North Dakota is flared or otherwise not marketed.” The prairie looks like it is on fire. Will migratory routes of some birds, such as cranes, be affected by this flaring? Look.
Listen. Stand on the shores of the Platte River in Nebraska, during the migration of the sandhill cranes, and listen. Listen to the deep rising and falling clatter of their songs. It will sound prehistoric. It is. They are among the oldest living bird species on earth. An ancient species that is being impacted by a relatively recent form of extracting natural gas, fracking. Listen.
Fracking is having a deleterious effect on biodiversity. This is described in a recent letter to EPA, Interior and Energy secretaries from the Society of Conservation Biology: http://bit.ly/YLuyRK.
Stop, look and listen.
Kristen Marshall, Boulder Rights of Nature/Boulder
Stop Obama appointments
As of Tuesday May 7, in the last week, President Obama announced three critical appointments tarnished by banking scandals, bailouts, lobbying and bundling.
Penny Pritzker, a billionaire heiress embroiled in banking failure and labor abuse, was named to head Commerce. Michael Froman, a managing director at Citigroup during its collapse and bailout, was appointed to take on the job of U.S. Trade Representative. And Tom Wheeler, venture capitalist and former communications industry lobbyist, has been named to chair the Federal Communications Industry.
Does President Obama represent us or these interests? I’d say that they aren’t the kind of people that should be in high places in our government!
Contact the president. These nominees have to be accepted by the Senate. We can stop them by putting pressure on our Senators (markudall.senate.gov & bennet.senate.gov). Call them through the Capitol switchboard at 866-338-1015.