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Is Walmart Sticking It to The People or Sticking it to The Man?

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    Suppose you’re a multi-national corporation that’s being kept down by a coalition of scruffy liberals, that includes unions, anti-poverty activists and church-based social justice organizations.

    You’re "The Man," and you want to stick it to "The People." What do you do?

    Start your own faux grass-roots social movement, of course.

    Because the retailer that promises Always Low Prices (and Always Low Wages) can’t beat the commies who are keeping it out of the South Side, it’s decided to join them. In its effort to build a grass-roots movement for a new store at 111th Street and the Bishop Ford Freeway in the Pullman neighborhood, the company launched a website called the Walmart Community Action Network, which looks and sounds just like a local nonprofit, if a local nonprofit had millions of dollars to spend on web design.

    Walmart is using the site to present its campaign for a new store as a social justice issue affecting the people.

    In one segment on the site, a roving reporter visited a South Side job fair, soliciting pro-Walmart sentiments from unemployed locals.

    “Families are hurting, as with everybody in this economy, but to have access to fresh produce and just basically a vehicle to get to, would be great,” one woman says.

    “Yes, each neighborhood do need a Walmart,” a man comments, “because we all need jobs.”

    And finally, a woman who perfectly articulates Walmart’s adoption of the left’s tactics: “to have a mega-store like Walmart would do a lot of justice for everyone.”

    Walmart, which knows its customer base better than anyone, is actually making a populist point with these interviews. Most of Walmart's most prominent opponents are well-educated politicians, union officials and activists who don’t need to shop at Walmart and are hostile to the culture the company represents.

    Remember how People of Walmart was such a big hit among Internet users (not a big Walmart demographic), who enjoyed a laugh at the expense of the unfashionable rubes who shop there? Our customers, Walmart is telling its enemies, are The People you claim to represent. 

    The Walmart Community Action Network has so far been a failure, though. On Wednesday, the City Council’s Zoning Committee indefinitely delayed a vote on a South Side Walmart, to give the company more time to negotiate with unions. The proposal has divided Chicago politicians: Mayor Daley and many South Side aldermen are in favor. Progressives, including Toni Preckwinkle, are against.

    It’s going to be a while before we find out who knows what’s best for The People.

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