Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Shop Costco

The NY Times today reports that Costco treats its people way better than Sam's Club (a subsidiary of the Wal-Mart empire). It's not the first time journalists have pointed this out: last year I heard an NPR report about Costco's good labor policies (no union busting, good wages and benefits). That report, too, mostly took the form of grousing by Wall Street analysts about how foolhardy it was to pay so much and to charge so little, keeping Costco's profit margins smaller than what was possible.

Well, I say good going, Jim Sinegal, CEO of Costco! Ignore the critics and pay for your employees' health insurance. It's the right thing to do.

On the same topic, the recent Frontline documentary "Is Wal-Mart Good for America?" is worth checking out, even though I'll bet you already know the answer. What made this documentary interesting to me was that it focused on Wal-Mart's role in squeezing suppliers and in sending American jobs overseas-- and said virtually nothing about the notorious labor abuses that many people talk about when they discuss Wal-Mart. The most striking part of the documentary is when the narrator goes to Long Beach, a major port in California, and asks the communications director what's coming in (from China) and being shipped out. Coming in: every manufactured good you can think of, from toys to clothes to electronics. Going out: raw materials, like cotton. Said the communications director: "We export cotton; we bring in clothing. We export hides; we bring in shoes. We export scrap metal; we bring back machinery." Is this 2005 or 1705?

1 comment:

Ambivalent_Maybe said...

Another useful feature of the Frontline documentary was its reminding us of a significant moment in the story of our burgeoning neo-oldo-colonial trade with China: Bill Clinton's support of renewing China's Most Favored Nation trading status in 1998, and the entry of China into the WTO in 2001. Since these wonderful acts of 'triangulation,' resplendent with predictions of the US jobs they would create, of all the products we were going to be making for the Chinese, imports from China have flooding in, and manufacturing jobs flooding out. Thanks, Bill!