Walmart partners with unions abroad: What are they waiting for at home?

Angry WalMartAs reported today in The Washington Post, thousands of Walmart employees have a voice through their union in the United Kingdom, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, and elsewhere. Unfortunately, the same doesn’t hold true here at home. In the United States, the retail giant is notorious for its opposition to unions and for its bottom-of-the-barrel wages, erratic hours, and meager benefits.

But Walmart’s blueprint in the United States is no longer working. The Post points out that the company’s only growth sector is in countries like South Africa and Brazil. Furthermore, as discussed this week in Jason Raznick’s blog post for Forbes (yes, Forbes) Walmart may already be “doomed.” As Raznick puts it, in the United States Walmart’s “business model may be becoming obsolete” as the global economy changes.

So the pressure is on Walmart to find a sustainable way of doing business—not just across the border, but here in the states too. After all, when employees of the country’s biggest private employer can’t afford the goods they put on the shelves, you can bet consumer spending will take a hit. Walmart’s track record as an irresponsible corporate citizen in the United States has complicated its global expansion, with local governments often demanding Walmart play by what the Post labeled “a new set of rules.” Coupled with the decline of the big box retail model, which Walmart is moving away from with its Express Stores, we have the impression that Walmart is quietly attempting to reinvent itself on the fly.

This might not be all bad news for Walmart employees here. While Walmart’s track record in the United States is dispiriting, the story is a good reminder that it doesn’t have to be this way. We already know that Walmart could easily offer employees better wages, while still keeping prices low. And now it’s clear that the company is actually doing better in countries where its workers have a voice on the job.

Which begs the question: What is Walmart waiting for? 

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 8th, 2011 at 5:06 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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