Thinking globally,  acting locally

Thinking globally, acting locally

Time to boycott and ‘girlcott’ Wal-Mart in Altadena

By Ellen Snortland 09/11/2012

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Wal-Mart, America’s most notorious corporate colonizer, is now reaching its predatory tentacles into Altadena. Do you smell the sulfurous scent of rotten eggs? That is the smell of greed. I have been a global and local human rights activist for decades, primarily through women’s rights organizations and the United Nations system, and I recognize a local imperialist takeover when I see one. Boycotting and “girlcotting” Wal-Mart is a perfect example of thinking globally and acting locally to preserve and protect humanitarian local values.
 
For most people “boycotting” is the refusal to patronize an existing business. I suggest that we “girlcott,” a word I’ll coin to indicate that we pro-actively stop Wal-Mart’s encroachment before it gets here so we won’t need to boycott it once it is here.
 
My biases are clear. I’m an Altadenan. I’m squarely in the camp of supporting my local merchants, and I’m anti-sexist, anti-exploitation, pro-union and appalled that Altadena has been targeted for not one, but two Wal-Mart Neighborhood Grocery stores! (Plans are afoot to install a second one on upper Lake Avenue, next to Ralphs, in addition to the location at Lincoln Avenue and Figueroa Drive already underway.)
 
It’s not too late to stop Wal-Mart, but we must not succumb to apathy and resignation.
 
As I was researching this piece, I visited Wal-Mart’s website to see what one must go through to apply for a job. Given the company’s infamous track record in sex discrimination, documented lower wages and systemic glass ceilings for females, imagine my amusement at the following boilerplate statement: “We do not discriminate against qualified applicants based upon any protected group status, including but not limited to race, color, creed, religion, sex (except where it is a bona fide occupational qualification) …” blah, blah, blah, and I’m pondering what exactly is a “bona fide occupational qualification” based on gender? Child bearing?
 
As the late Florynce Kennedy — a fellow woman’s rights activist and professional smartass — so aptly said, “There are very few jobs that actually require a penis or vagina. All other jobs should be open to everybody.” So does this mean Wal-Mart will be selling babies born on the premises? But I digress.
 
There are so many reasons for being against Wal-Mart; see what your favorite is and take any number of the actions listed at the bottom.
 
Job creation: Are you in favor of jobs for local people? Me too! There are, however, gullible people who are excited about Wal-Mart opening a Neighborhood Store because it will supposedly be creating local jobs. WRONG! In fact, Wal-Mart’s presence will decrease employment. How? First of all, Wal-Mart refuses to commit to employing local people. That means they will — and do — hire anyone they damn well please, no matter where they live. In addition, Wal-Mart’s predatory pricing will inevitably destroy competing small local businesses, which means that people will lose their jobs when Wal-Mart sinks its claws into the neighborhood.
 
Anti-blight: Uninformed people may think, “Yeah, there’s development happening with a new Wal-Mart store!” While one corner of a blighted area may get upgraded, consider that awful “ghost town” look when small local businesses are forced to shut their doors.
 
Lower Costs: When you go for cheaper short-term prices, the long-term effect is just the opposite. A large corporation like Wal-Mart can afford to have ridiculously low prices until it has completely driven out the competition. When that happens — as it always does — then Wal-mart will raise its prices. Do you love Webster’s? Love Super King? Love your local pharmacy where they know your name? You can kiss all that goodbye if Wal-Mart comes in.
 
Are you against genetically modified organisms? Are you against slave labor and sweatshop conditions overseas? Are you pro-union? If so, you are anti-Wal-Mart, whether you know it or not.
 
A brilliant way to take a local action that makes a global difference is to take a stand against Wal-Mart, whether you live in Pasadena or Altadena. This is one instance being a NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) can make a difference!
 
Actions to take
• Sign a No Big Box Store petition being circulated online by the local advocacy group Save Altadena at savealtadena.com.
 
• Contact Neighbors Building a Better Altadena (NBBA) by calling (626) 344-7806 or emailing nicomo@sbcglobal.net and ask for info. Through NBBA, consider hosting a screening in your church, home or place of business of the truly scathing and accurate documentary produced by Robert Greenwald, “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices,” which addresses Wal-Mart’s highly negative personal, local and global impact.
 
• Save the date! The Altadena Coalition of Neighborhood Associations (ACONA) (ACONAOnline.org) is hosting a meeting from 7 to 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 9, at the Altadena Senior Center, 560 E Mariposa St, Altadena. One of the speakers will be Javier Angulo, director of community affairs for Wal-Mart. Moderator Elliot Gold requests that attendees prepare written questions in advance.
 
Finally, girlcotts are more impactful than boycotts! An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. Don’t let Wal-Mart infect Altadena in the first place.n

Ellen Snortland is a writing coach in Altadena. Visit her Web site, snortland.com.

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