In his film Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices, Robert Greenwald reveals what he perceives to be the hypocrisy of Wal-Mart. Although Wal-Mart portrays an image of servitude and charity to the community, Greenwald explains that this multi-million corporation is responsible for inhumane, unjust and shameful practices in the United States and abroad. Clips of Wal-Mart's CEO, Lee Scott, are featured before Greenwald presents evidence about alternate truths regarding what is going on behind the scenes of Wal-Mart store and Wal-Mart communities.
Greenwald explains that Wal-Mart is responsible for the disintegration of many independent mom-and-pop shops in small towns. Many of these businesses had run successfully for decades before Wal-Mart arrived. One example portrayed in the film is the story of Red Esry, who started Esry Groceries in 1959, which quickly went out of business after Wal-Mart was welcomed into the community. Having eliminated all other competition, Wal-Mart makes the community dependent on its business while make downtowns virtually ghost towns and create high rates of unemployment. Greenwald portrays the trend of small town quality of life dying and dependency on the world's largest corporation in history firmly taking its place.
Greenwald further examines the unbelievably unjust treatment of Wal-Mart employees. Workers are kept as part-time employees, allowing the corporation to pay for as few benefits as possible. Although most employees work part-time, many employees work overtime because the store is temporarily unstaffed, which the employee knows is a lie. If employees do not complete their tasks, even if it means working overtime consistently, it is implied that they will lose their jobs. This forces many workers to work off the clock extra hours and for less benefits.
Other injustices that are mentioned include sexual and racial discrimination as well as Wal-Mart's strong anti-union stance. As one former manager once stated, Union is like a curse at Wal-Mart. Managers are taught to profile individuals who appear to have abilities to organize unions as to fire them. Greenwald finally explains, among other things, that Wal-Mart is responsible for unfair labor practices all over the world. And when one employee spoke truthfully about what he saw in one of the factories, he was fired.
Greenwald reveals to the audience what he perceives Wal-Mart to be: a devouring, profit-hungry, socially unjust monster claiming small town communities and quality of life in the United States and around the world.
This documentary reminds its viewers why they watch documentaries. It's informative, it's mind-shifting and it affects the everyday lives of hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. It will definitely make a viewer think twice about supporting an institution that lacks concern for basic human dignity and labor rights. The documentary challenges its viewers to think critically about the socio-political effects of their economic choices. It also reveals interesting economic dynamics, including the merging of global financial markets, and their effects on local communities.
This film is a must-see. Walmart: The High Cost of Low Prices isn't just for young activists or community leaders, it is about everyday people and the effect of the choices they make.
- Aleksandra Sekinger