Beyond the Wal-Mart Economy



Beyond the Wal-Mart Economy
Economic Actions for a Just Planet
No.68 Spring 2006
Beyond the
Western States Take
the Lead on Solar Energy
Progress Report:
47,000 Attended
our 2005 Green Festivals
No Place for Wal-Mart:
Find out why Wal-Mart is bad
for workers, communities,
and the environment—and what
you can do about it
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Table of Contents
Co-op America is dedicated to creating a just
and sustainable society by harnessing economic
power for positive change. Co-op America’s
unique approach involves working with both the
consumer (demand) and business (supply) sides
of the economy simultaneously.
Eco-Actions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Western States Take Lead on Solar Energy • Organic Diet Reduces Children’s Exposure
to Pesticides • California Passes Safe Cosmetics Act
Co-op America’s programs are designed to:
1) Educate people about how to use their spending and investing power to bring the values of
social justice and environmental sustainability
into the economy, 2) Help socially and environmentally responsible businesses emerge and
thrive, and 3) Pressure irresponsible companies
to adopt socially and environmentally responsible practices.
Across Co-op America
In Cooperation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
A Business Model We Can’t Afford, by Alisa Gravitz
The Mail. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Progress Report. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
Here’s what you can do:
Reduce, reuse, recycle, and repair to conserve
and protect the Earth’s resources. Read
Co-op America Quarterly and Real Money for
sustainable living tips for you, your workplace,
and your community.
Reinvest in the future through socially responsible investing. Turn to Co-op America’s Financial
Planning Handbook for your how-to guide.
Use the financial services of Co-op America
business members.
Restructure the way America does business.
Co-op America’s programs are supported
almost entirely by contributions from our
members. Individual memberships begin at
$20, business memberships at $85. All members
receive our publications and access to our services. Business membership, pending approval,
also includes a listing in Co-op America’s
National Green Pages™.
Classifieds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
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Reallocate the purchases you make from
irresponsible companies to socially and
environmentally responsible businesses. Turn to
Co-op America’s National Green Pages™ to find
green businesses. Use Co-op America’s long
distance phone and travel services.
47,000 Attend our 2005 Green Festivals • 2005 Year-End Report and Dollar-for-Dollar Matching
Fund • Co-op America Co-Creates Recycled Paper Award
Beyond the
Wal-Mart Economy
No Place for Wal-Mart . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Skip Wal-Mart, Save Money . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Shopping Cart Comparison . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Fighting off the Big Box . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
• If Wal-Mart Hasn’t Come toTown . . . . . . . . 17
• If Wal-Mart is Trying to Move In . . . . . . . . . 19
• If Wal-Mart is Already in Your Area . . . . . . 19
• No Matter What Wal-Mart is Doing . . . . . . . 21
Wal-Mart Hits Close to Home . . . . . . . . 20
Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
As a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) membership
organization, all contributions to Co-op America
are tax-deductible. We welcome your membership and contributions.
Co-op America
1612 K Street NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20006
800/58-GREEN • 202/872-5307
[email protected]
NOTE: In Investing for the World (Fall 2005 CAQ), we printed an
incorrect Web address for the SERRV Community Investment Loan Fund.
The correct URL is
Visit our Web sites: •• • • • • • •
Co-op America’s Board of Directors
Liz Borkowski • Melissa Bradley • Bená Burda •
Amanda Chehrezad • Justin Conway • Paul Freundlich •
Elizabeth Glenshaw • Alisa Gravitz • Priya Haji •
Diane Keefe • Todd Larsen • Karen Masterson
Co-op America Quarterly
In Cooperation
A Business Model We Can’t Afford
n a truly just and sustainable society,
there is no place for a corporation like
today’s Wal-Mart.
In a society where everyone has
enough, where all communities are
healthy and safe, and where the Earth is
preserved for all the generations to
come, there can be no corporation that
aggressively advances a business model
that destroys people's choices, jobs,
communities, and the environment.
In an economy that cares for the
health and well-being of every person
and doesn't permit poverty, there can
be no corporation that asks people—as
Wal-Mart does—to trade "low prices"
today for the inability to have a job,
purchase the necessities of life, live in
a safe community or count on a healthy
environment tomorrow.
Now, here's the reason for hope for
tomorrow: the number of people who
understand this to be true is growing
rapidly and they are increasingly vocal
about their opposition to Wal-Mart.
This opposition is broad based. It's
grassroots. It is coming from the heartland, from workers, from consumers
and investors, from small and large
communities, from African-American
and Latino organizations, from religious
institutions, from Democrats, Republicans, and the politically unaffiliated.
Wal-Mart also faces a growing
number of consumers voting with their
dollars in favor of other companies (as
evidenced by Wal-Mart's poor holiday
2005 sales), peer censure (Wal-Mart
failed to make the Fortune 100, despite
being one of the world's largest corporations), and Wall Street disaproval
(as evidenced by year after year of
Wal-Mart's stagnant stock prices).
Business Week reporter Roben Farzad
recently gave voice to both this common sense and the Wall Street perspective, saying that “… customers just
don't want to feel bad about where
they shop … To change that, Wal-Mart
needs to quit its low-cost race to the
That's why we've put this guide
together for you. It gives you the information about the systemic problems
Co-op America Quarterly
with Wal-Mart, as well as their solutions, explaining how we can move
beyond the Wal-Mart economy.
We're also putting this guide into
the hands of people in thousands of
communities across the US. And we're
calling on all Americans to join us on
the long-term journey to save the
future from companies like Wal-Mart.
How do we, individually and collectively, do this?
1. We learn what Wal-Mart is
doing, how it harms people and the
planet, and why this is a particularly
virulent form of the corporate business
model. (See “No Place for Wal-Mart,”
page 9.)
Wal-Mart faces a growing
number of consumers voting
with their dollars in favor of a
more sustainable economy.
2. We demand that Wal-Mart stop
its egregious practices. We work within our communities to keep Wal-Mart
out or make it play by just and sustainable rules. (See “Fighting Off the
Big Box,” page 16.)
3. We recognize that, for now,
Wal-Mart is part of our economy, both
as the world's largest corporation and
as our country’s largest retailer in
many categories. If we can harness its
power to reduce its impact in a positive way, without pricing policies that
crush producers, we do it—whether
it’s selling Fair Trade products, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, selling
organic products, or offering low-cost
health care.
4. When we succeed in getting
Wal-Mart to take positive steps, we
don't let it off the hook for its other
egregious practices. One good deed
does not buy Wal-Mart a pass on anything else.
5. For those of us who have the economic wherewithal, we stop making
purchases at Wal-Mart. We get out of
denial—if we are not in poverty, we
don't buy from Wal-Mart. We get creative about how we can save money
without shopping at Wal-Mart. (See
“Skip Wal-Mart, Save Money,” page 13.)
6. We shift our purchasing and
investments to green and locally based
7. We are compassionate about
people who are in poverty and may
need to shop at Wal-Mart. We work to
provide other choices for people in our
communities struggling economically.
We work on system change so that no
one is forced into a deal with the devil
to purchase their necessities.
8. We work within our communities to educate about the destructiveness of Wal-Mart. You can order free
copies of this guide to help (call or
e-mail us—or send in the postcard
between pages 14 and 15.)
9. We get serious about what it will
take to fully change these destructive
business models—including changes
in practices, products, ownership, and
decision-making. (Imagine a group of
people the size of Wal-Mart putting
their creativity into a business model
that advances social justice and
environmental sustainability!)
10. We join hands together in campaigns to put pressure for change on
Wal-Mart. Send the postcards
between page 14 and 15—and sign up
for our e-mail newsletter at to get the latest
on Wal-Mart and take additional
Most importantly, we acknowledge
that shifting our economy is a longterm endeavor. We embrace the work
So we roll up our sleeves, because
we know that if we want a future for
all the generations of our children to
come, shifting to an economic system
based on justice and sustainability is
Thanks for all you do for people and
the planet,
Alisa Gravitz, Executive Director
m designates Co-op America Business Network Member
Co-op America
EDITOR Tracy Fernandez Rysavy
MANAGING EDITORS Liz Borkowski, Andrew Korfhage
EDITORIAL ADVISERS Alisa Gravitz, Denise Hamler
PUBLISHER Denise Hamler
ADVERTISING Denise Hamler, Rob Hanson, Dawn Zurell
Amanda Chehrezad
MAJOR DONOR INTERN Elizabeth Kurgansky
Carrie Hawthorne
Becky LaBounty
DATA ENTRY SPECIALISTS Kitty Shenoy, Deanna Tilden
Joelle Novey
CO-OP AMERICA QUARTERLY (ISSN: 0885-9930) is free with
Co-op America Individual Membership ($20/year) or Business Membership ($85/year). Back issues may be ordered for $6 by
calling 800/58-GREEN. We welcome requests to reprint articles; call
To change your address or to receive information on membership or
Co-op America Business Network services, call 202/872-5307 or e-mail
[email protected]
Co-op America
1612 K St. NW, #600, Washington, DC 20006
800/58-GREEN • fax 202/331-8166
Copyright 2006. Green Pages is a trademark of the
Co-op America Foundation. Used under authorization.
NO. 68
The Mail
Credit Unions
Thanks for yet another great issue on
socially responsible investing, this time
focusing on community investing (Investing
for the World, Fall 2005 CAQ). I was very
happy to see that credit unions received a
mention and wish to see more in-depth
reporting about them in the future. I work
at the National Credit Union Foundation,
(NCUF) which is the charitable arm of the
Credit Union National Association
(CUNA) here in Madison, Wisconsin, and
have been really impressed with their
“people helping people” philosophy.
As you may know, credit unions
are not-for-profit cooperative financial
institutions, and it would greatly benefit
readers to know more about them. I am
always surprised to talk with people who
just think they are strangely named
banks—it’s quite the opposite. When you
open an account, you become more than a
member—you are a part owner! Credit
unions truly work “for the people, by the
people,” not like those greedy banks who
are chasing the bottom line.
Christopher Morris, Madison, WI
More Community Investing Options
I very much appreciated your fall issue of
Co-op America Quarterly (Investing for the World,
Fall 2005). I would have liked to see more
about community investing institutions
that operate out of religious groups.
One such group that has been in
operation since the late 1960s is the Society
of Religious Friends (Quaker) group, the
Right Sharing of World Resources.
Although it arose from the Quakers, its
underlying statement of mission is nonsectarian and I believe gives a humanistic
spiritual foundation for this type of
investing. More information about this
group can be found at
Nicholas Sanders, Philadelphia, PA
National Solar Incentives
Thank you for your recent issue on solar
energy (The Promise of the Solar Future,
Summer 2005 CAQ). My husband and I are
off the grid and incorporating solar and
wind power into the house we are building. While our state, Maine, has just
passed a bill that will provide incentives to
homeowners and businesses who install
solar, it is only for those who are on the
grid and who only use a qualified installer
(master electrician). That leaves out the
“pioneers” and those who have been living
on alternative energy for a very long time.
Are there incentives on a national level, or,
a resource to help individuals have a
Let us know what you think!
We really love to hear from you. Call the
editors at 202/872-5328, fax 202/331-8166, write
Co-op America Quarterly, 1612 K St. NW, #600,
Washington, DC 20006, or e-mail:
[email protected]
Subscription or member questions?
Call us at 202/872-5307 or 800/58-GREEN,
e-mail [email protected], or write 1612 K St. NW,
#600, Washington, DC 20006.
collective voice to strengthen our state’s
incentive programs?
Suzanne Dunham, Kingfield, ME
Editor’s Note: Thank you for writing, Suzanne.
Your question gives us the opportunity to update the
information printed in the Eco-Actions section of
the Fall 2005 Co-op America Quarterly. As
reported in our article “Solar Incentives Remain in
Flawed Energy Bill,” the first national solar
energy incentives in two decades were just signed
into law last August and were set to take effect in
January 2006. Although the Senate had called for
those incentives to last for four years (as noted in the
Eco-Actions item), negotiations with the House of
Representatives reduced that to two years in the
final version of the bill. So, the new solar incentives
allow a federal tax credit for homeowners who add
a solar energy system to their house between
January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2007. The credit
equals 30 percent of your cost, capped at $2,000,
and applies to systems “placed in service” after this
January—which means that even if you bought
your system or began installation before 2006,
you’re still eligible for the credit as long as you
haven’t completed the job. (Systems already in
service are not eligible.) Also, you are eligible for a
separate credit for each complete system you install,
which means that you can receive $2,000 for a
photovoltaic electric system, and then receive a
second $2,000 for installing a solar water heater.
The credits are not dependent on your being tied to
the grid or using a certified installer.
Regarding your second question, the American
Solar Energy Society ( has
23 chapters encompassing 34 states, each of which
works to advance solar energy at the national and
local levels. You can join ASES directly, which
includes a subscription to their solar energy
magazine Solar Today, or you can visit the ASES
Web site to find a local chapter. In Maine,
you could choose to join either the Northeast
Sustainable Energy Association (
or the Maine Solar Energy Association
incidentally, is a fellow Co-op America member.
And, of course, as a Co-op America member,
you are part of creating a national plan for solar
energy through our Solar Catalyst program. To keep
informed about our efforts to promote solar, sign up
for our e-mail newsletter at
Co-op America Quarterly
Eco Actions
Western States Take Lead on Solar Energy
he western US could install as
much as eight gigawatts of
capacity by 2015 (enough to power
more than a million homes), according
to a report produced for the Western
Governors’ Association (WGA) last
fall. Such a move would be a first step
toward clean energy goals adopted by
the WGA in 2004.
The report also noted the success
other countries have had in using
temporary development incentives to
accelerate the growth of the solar
industry, and it outlined incentives
needed at the state level to unleash
private investment in solar with little
or no state budgetary impact.
The report went on to list policy
recommendations for the governors,
including robust rebates for homeowners who install solar systems, tax
incentives for businesses willing to
invest in “central station plants,” and
The western US could install enough solar
electricity generating capacity to power more
than a million homes by 2015.
incentives to encourage energy
conservation. Loss of tax revenue from
instituting such policies, the report
stated, would be offset by retaining
property, personal, and corporate
income taxes from the future profits
of the emergent solar industry,
projected to encompass “32,000
high-quality jobs.”
The foundation of all relationships
What’s more, the report predicts
that if the Western governors follow
its outlines, “the cost of [solar]
electricity will fall until it’s on par with
that from plants burning natural gas”
by 2015, and home-based solar systems
will have declined in price to the point
they become more affordable than purchasing electricity on the retail market.
All of this is in line with the
recommendations of Co-op America’s
Solar Catalyst program. “One region
of our country could lead the way to
making solar globally affordable,” says
executive director Alisa Gravitz. “We
hope the WGA takes the lead.”
The Western governors are expected to discuss the plan at their meeting
in June 2006, and according to the
newsletter “Renewable Energy Today,”
are likely to adopt the plan.
CONTACT: Western Governors’ Association,
continued on page 7
f o r ove r t w o d e c a d e s we have worked hard to earn
investors’ trust through our words and actions. We understand how
challenging it can be to find a mutual fund company with products,
people and a process you can trust. That is why at Citizens we
dedicate ourselves to helping individual and institutional clients
meet their financial needs by our:
— Wide array of socially screened mutual funds;
— Strong and talented pool of portfolio managers and analysts;
— Investments in companies we believe are poised for strong
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Distributed by Citizens Securities, Inc.
Co-op America Quarterly
m designates Co-op America Business Network Member
Your interest makes a
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Organic Diet Reduces Children’s
Exposure to Pesticides
The Centers for Disease Control
released a study last fall showing that
in children, a switch to an organic diet
can cleanse at least two common
pesticides from detectable levels in
their bodies within five days.
US government scientists tested
elementary-school-age children for the
presence of malthion and chlorpyrifos
(the two most commonly used
pesticides in the United States) over
the course of 15 days. For the first three
and final seven days of the study, the
children ate conventional food, with
five days of organic food in the middle.
The detectable presence of pesticides
disappeared within the five days of
the organic diet, only to shoot back up
in the final seven days of the study.
Malthion and chlorpyrifos have
been associated with potential nerve
damage in children.
Margaret Reeves, a staff scientist at
the Pesticide Action Network North
America, said the findings are “a
pretty strong argument” for switching
children’s diets to organic.
The study itself concluded that the
researchers “were able to demonstrate
that an organic diet provides a dramatic and immediate protective effect
against exposure to organophosphorus
pesticides that are commonly used in
agricultural production.”
According to a Consumers Union
report from 2000, fruits and vegetables
showing the highest levels of pesticide
residues include peaches, apples,
pears, grapes, green beans, spinach,
winter squash, and strawberries.
CONTACT: Pesticide Action Network,
California Passes Safe Cosmetics Act
In a landmark move, Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger and the California
legislature passed a law last October
requiring cosmetics makers doing
business in their state to report
potentially toxic or carcinogenic
ingredients in their products to the
Department of Health Services.
Due to a loophole in FDA
regulations, personal care products are
exempted from federal government
oversight. California is now the only
state to demand such right-to-know
reporting from cosmetics companies.
“We thank the Governor for
signing this landmark bill, despite the
unprecedented lobbying efforts of the
cosmetics industry [against it],” said
Jeanne Rizzo, executive director of
the Breast Cancer Fund. “This is an
important disclosure bill and an
important victory for women’s health.
California has set the stage for states
asserting regulatory authority around
toxic chemicals in cosmetics, which
the federal government has thus far
refused to lead on.”
In April of last year, the Campaign
for Safe Cosmetics (CSC) launched
a campaign for companies to pledge
to keep potential toxins out of their
products. To learn more about
companies that are already keeping their
products free from potentially dangerous chemicals, visit our recent feature
from our Real Money newsletter at
CONTACT: Campaign for Safe Cosmetics,
Co-op America Quarterly
Behind Wal-Mart’s “everyday low prices” lurk hidden costs—from the exploitation of workers
in the US and around the world, to increased sprawl and pollution—that we end up paying as
consumers, taxpayers, workers, and citizens. Join those of us who are opposing Wal-Mart’s
destructive business model, and help us declare …
There is no place for today’s
in a
Sustainable Society
he Wal-Mart economy is the opposite of sustainable.
There can be no place in a sustainable economy for
a corporation like today’s Wal-Mart that advances a
business model riddled with negative repurcussions—from its
low-wage, environmentally destructive factories in developing
countries, to shuttered local businesses all across America.
“Wal-Mart makes the corporate business model even more
destructive,” says Erin Gorman, director of Co-op America’s
Wal-Mart Action Campaign. “Their push to lower their costs
year after year has driven down wages here and abroad, sent
American manufacturing jobs overseas, rapidly expanded toxic
industrial production in countries that lack rigorous labor or
environmental protections, and contributed to a host of other
social and environmental ills. It’s a race to the bottom where
everyone loses.”
Until Wal-Mart, the trend in the American marketplace
had been to increasingly internalize the costs of doing business,
from paying decent wages and offering health-care benefits, to
limiting the work-week to 40 hours, to curbing environmental impact. While the job of internalizing business costs was
nowhere near complete, the trend was in the right direction.
In its relentless pursuit of ever-cheaper products and everlarger market shares, Wal-Mart reverses that trend. Wal-Mart
externalizes its costs any way it can—by pushing its healthcare costs onto local communities, for example, or by soliciting taxpayer dollars to subsidize its sprawl.
These costs, then, are born by all of us, including the lowincome consumers supposedly assisted by Wal-Mart’s “low
prices.” What’s more, for individuals stuck without retail
options—whether because of poverty or because big-box stores
have killed off local businesses—the truth is that Wal-Mart’s
“low prices” aren’t always exactly that (see “Skip Wal-Mart,
Save Money”, p.13). Concerned consumers need to take an
encompassing view of the retail situation in the US and work
to provide other choices for people in our communities who are
struggling economically.
At the same time, concerned consumers can use the power
of their dollars to force Wal-Mart, the largest corporation in
the world, to use their infrastructure more for good than for ill.
Already, Wal-Mart rings up more sales than any other company in a host of retail categories, including toys, books, CDs,
DVDs, magazines, dog food, diapers, jewelry, and groceries.
Imagine if those products were all sustainably produced by
workers making fair wages using processes that protect the
That day is not yet here, but the good news is that the market is beginning to wake up to the problems with the Wal-Mart
way, and together we can advance the momentum for change.
As Business Week reporter Roben Farzad put it, “Leave it to
Wal-Mart to double its profits to more than $10 billion in five
years, blanketing the globe with more $20 DVD players than
you can shake a $2 broomstick at, only to see its share price fall
13 percent over the same period.” In other words, the WalMart way won’t hold up over the long term, and Wal-Mart
needs to completely reform itself or be put out of business. Its
current business model is unsustainable every step of the way.
The problems with Wal-Mart begin with its supply chain,
where many of the workers who make its products pay the
price for low-cost items by toiling in sweatshop conditions.
Outlets as diverse as the National Labor Committee (NLC)
and the Wall Street Journal continue to produce new reports on
sweatshop abuses connected with Wal-Mart’s supply chain. In
2004, NLC reported on a Chinese leather goods factory where
nearly half of the workforce earns no wages at all (working
instead to pay off debts for training, food, and lodging), and the
Wall Street Journal exposed a Wal-Mart toaster producer where
Co-op America Quarterly
Beyond the
Wal-Mart Economy
workers’ wages were 40 percent below the minimum wage.
Chinese workers filed a class-action lawsuit against
Wal-Mart last September, alleging a range of sweatshop
abuses, including “forced overtime, payment below the
minimum wage, and [denial of] full overtime pay, holidays
off, weekly days off, or daily rest periods.” The sweatshop
problem, however, is not limited to one country. The
Chinese plaintiffs were joined by plaintiffs from other countries, including the US, all alleging the same thing—that
Wal-Mart ignores its own “standards for suppliers” and tolerates abuse of workers in its supply chain.
“As the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart has the power
to set higher [labor] standards within the industry,” says
Maquila Solidarity Network president Ian Thompson.
“Instead, it continuously pressures its suppliers to produce
cheaper and quicker, encouraging sweatshop abuses.”
That pressure can be devastating to suppliers that don’t
or can’t bow to Wal-Mart’s demands. Frank Garson, the last
president of the Georgia-based Lovable Company, which
had supplied apparel to Wal-Mart since the retail giant’s
earliest days, told Fast Company in 2003 how the shifting terms
of his contract cost him his business.
“Wal-Mart has a big pencil,” Garson said.”They have such
awesome purchasing power that they write their own ticket.
If they don’t like your prices, they’ll go vertical and do it themselves—or they’ll find someone that will meet their terms.”
Although the Lovable Company had once been the
sixth-largest in its field, Garson’s loss of Wal-Mart as a
customer was “irreplaceable,” and the company closed its
doors within three years. “Wal-Mart chewed us up and spit
us out,” he said.
One study estimates that Wal-Mart
depressed total earnings of retail workers
nationwide by $4.7 billion in 2000 alone.
billion. Plus, Wal-Mart spends less per worker on employee health care than its competitors. A Harvard Business
School study found that Wal-Mart spent $3,500 per employee on health care in 2002, while the average corporation
spends $5,600.
Furthermore, high premiums and limits on eligibility mean
that fewer than half of Wal-Mart workers are insured under
the company plan. Full-time, non-management Wal-Mart
employees must wait six months to be eligible for the company health plan, and part-time workers must wait two years,
compared to an average 2.5-month wait for retail companies
as a whole. Once they are eligible, many employees decline the
plan because they are unable to afford premiums and
deductibles, which exclude or limit coverage for certain routine necessities like check-ups and vaccinations.
Last fall, the company proposed modest improvements
to its health care plan, in the face of rising public criticism.
But shortly thereafter, the New York Times published internal
Wal-Mart memos that admitted the company would try to
offset its now slightly better plan by screening its pools of
job applicants for only the healthiest workers.
Wal-Mart doesn’t stop at keeping wages low and
benefits inadequate. Workers in more than 30 states have
sued Wal-Mart for failing to pay overtime wages, and it
currently faces a class-action lawsuit for discriminating
against women in pay and promotion. In December, a California jury ordered Wal-Mart to pay $172 million to 116,000
of its employees who had been illegally and routinely denied
meal breaks.
“[L]awsuits are pending in six states accusing Wal-Mart
of forcing employees to work off the clock, to work without
breaks,” states a 2005 report by the nonprofit American Rights
at Work. “Wal-Mart expects its employees to be at its beck and
call. Workers at a store in West Virginia were recently
informed they would be fired if they could not commit to
working any shift between 7 am and 11 pm, seven days a week.”
In 2004, Wal-Mart earned $10 billion in profits. CEO H.
Lee Scott took home a salary of more than $17 million, and
yet the majority of Wal-Mart associates made wages that
would place them below the poverty line for a family of four.
In 2003, the New York Times reported that Wal-Mart’s
clerks make around $14,000 a year, about $5,000 below the
poverty line for a family of four. Even using Wal-Mart’s own
numbers from 2004, which claimed that a full-time WalMart worker averages $9.64 per hour, take-home pay would
total around $18,000—still $1,000 below the family-of-four
poverty line, as explained in John Dicker’s book The United
States of Wal-Mart.
A 2005 study by the University of California–Berkeley
found that from 1992 to 2000, the total earnings of US urban
workers in the general merchandise and grocery sectors were
reduced by 1.3 percent after Wal-Mart showed up in their
areas. In 2000 alone, study authors estimated that Wal-Mart
depressed total earnings of retail workers nationwide by $4.7
Co-op America Quarterly
When workers can’t afford their employer’s health plan,
those costs often shift from both the employer and the
employee onto the taxpayers.
Three states where the Wal-Mart effect on public health
insurance programs has been measured have seen Wal-Mart
workers costing taxpayers millions of dollars each year. For
example, in Georgia, Wal-Mart employees cost taxpayers an
estimated $6.6 million in 2002, with nearly 10,000 children
of Wal-Mart employees enrolled in the state’s “PeachCare”
program—ten times more than from any other employer. In
Wisconsin, the bill for Wal-Mart employees depending on
“BadgerCare” ran to $4.75 million in 2004, and the Knoxville
News-Sentinal reported in 2005 that 25 percent of all Tennessee
Wal-Mart employees were enrolled in “TennCare.”
“Social safety net programs are, in effect, the employee
benefit plan for much of Wal-Mart's workforce,” says
Phil Mattera of the nonprofit Good Jobs First. In fact,
federal taxpayers spend an average of $420,750 for each
200-person Wal-Mart store because many of its employees
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Wal-Mart Economy
AP/Wide World Photo
receive Section 8 housing assistance, low-income tax
credit, low-income energy assistance, free or reduced school
lunches, food stamps, and other assistance, according to a
study by the Democratic Staff of the House Committee on
Education and the Workforce.
Furthermore, taxpayers often subsidize Wal-Mart’s
expansion into new towns, as the company actively shops for
incentive packages from local governments, promising new
jobs and other benefits. As of 2004, Phil Mattera and his colleagues had identified many different types of Wal-Mart
subsidies, including free or low-cost land, road construction
projects, and income tax credits, totalling more than a billion dollars in assistance to Wal-Mart—the largest corporation in the world.
Since there’s no single source of information on this
topic, Mattera says Good Jobs First pieced its information
together through painstaking research of news articles and
interviews with local officials. Because the group couldn’t
research every single Wal-Mart (there are more than 3,500
in the US alone), Mattera acknowledges that the billion dollars in subsidies is likely only “the tip of the iceberg.”
Unable to compete when a Wal-Mart opens, many local businesses close their doors.
When the once-vibrant city-centers of towns like Independence, Iowa, fade away, and consumers start driving to bigbox developments on the edge of town, you’ve got sprawl.
Sprawl threatens air and water quality, reduces wildlife
habitat and open space, and creates requirements for expensive new infrastructure. Also, with the average Wal-Mart
Supercenter generating 7,000 to 10,000 car trips each
day, each new Wal-Mart store can represent massive new
emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants with a
devastating effect on local communities.
The nonprofit Sprawl-Busters also calls attention to WalMart’s habit of closing one of its smaller stores to build an
even bigger one close by—then often standing in the way of
their abandoned buildings’ reuse. A 2004 Wall Street Journal
article quoted real estate agents and community officials
asserting that sometimes, Wal-Mart “creates roadblocks
when other discount merchandisers or supermarkets have
expressed interest in its shuttered buildings.” As a result, by
the end of 2004, Sprawl-Busters reported that it had found
356 empty buildings that Wal-Mart had available for sale or
lease—enough empty space to fill 534 football fields.
In the US, Wal-Mart has been fined for multiple
violations of environmental regulations like the Clean Water
As early as 1989, when the New York Times Magazine profiled the
decline of local businesses in the town of Independence,
Iowa, observers were already sounding the alarm about the
cost of Wal-Mart to local economies. A year after Wal-Mart
came to town, a dozen of Independence’s local businesses—
some of which had thrived downtown for more than 100
years—had folded and closed their doors.
“Wal-Mart just cannibalizes Main Street,” a retail analyst
told the Times about the transformation of Independence.
“They move into town and in the first year they’re doing
$10 million. That money has to come from somewhere, and
generally it’s out of the small [businessperson’s] cash register.”
Unfortunately, the town felt it had no choice but to
accept Wal-Mart’s advances. “Wal-Mart threatened us,” the
Independence mayor told the Times. “They told us if they
didn’t build here, they’d build nearby, and that would have
been equally hard on us.”
By 1995, University of Iowa researchers looked at the
impact of Wal-Mart stores on Iowa commuONE WAL-MART’S COST TO FEDERAL TAXPAYERS
nities in the decade since Wal-Mart estabA
200-employee Wal-Mart store costs taxpayers the following:
lished its first Iowa store, in 1983. They found
• $36,000 a year for free and reduced lunches for 50 qualifying Wal-Mart families
that between 1983 and 1993, the home-grown
• $42,000 a year for Section 8 housing assistance, assuming 3 percent of the store
businesses of Iowa’s small towns tended to
employees qualify for such assistance, at $6,700 per family
lose between 16 and 46 percent of their sales
• $125,000 a year for federal tax credits and deductions for
after Wal-Mart came to town, causing many
low-income families, assuming 50 employees are heads of household with a child
of them to collapse.
and 50 are married with two children.
Today, local communities are still feeling
• $100,000 a year for the additional Title I expenses, assuming 50 Wal-Mart famithe effects when Wal-Mart comes to town.
lies qualify with an average of 2 children.
• $108,000 a year for the additional federal health care costs of moving into state
When the first Wal-Mart Supercenter (a
children’s health insurance programs (S_CHIP), assuming 30 employees with an
gigantic Wal-Mart that also sells groceries)
average of two children qualify.
moved into La Quinta, California, in 2004, it
• $9,750 a year for the additional costs for low income energy assistance.
took only eight months for the Los Angeles Times
For a grand annual total of $420,750 .
to begin reporting wage and benefit losses to
—The Democratic Staff of the Committee on Education and the Workforce
other workers in the local economy.
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Beyond the
Wal-Mart Economy
Protesters gather outside a Mountain View, CA, Wal-Mart after the company’s
2000 decision not to honor prescriptions for emergency contraceptives.
Act and Clean Air Act, but it is perhaps the Wal-Mart business
model, with its emphasis on seeking ever-lower prices, that
fuels the most disastrous of Wal-Mart’s impacts on the environment. Heather Rogers, author of Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden
Life of Garbage, told Grist magazine, “The real environmental
impact comes from what Wal-Mart sells: cheap commodoties
that are designed to wear out quickly.”
their money to support controversial causes such as school
vouchers and the repeal of the estate tax.
The St. Petersburg Times reports that in 2004, Wal-Mart made
$2.7 million in political contributions (about 80 percent of which
went to Republicans), and Sam Walton’s family donated $3.2
million during the 2004 election cycle, with most of the money
going to pro-Bush groups.
Even beyond the political arena, many find that
Wal-Mart pushes an idealogy in its stores, using its influence
to determine what products are available to consumers.
For example, AlterNet reports that the company pulled a
T-shirt reading “Someday a woman will be president” from the
sales floor because “the message goes against Wal-Mart values.” And Business Week notes that Wal-Mart has banned popular books like talk-show host Jon Stewart’s America: The Book,
refuses to stock the morning-after pill, Preven, and yet continues to stock inexpensive firearms.
According to AlterNet, “The political bias inherent in WalMart’s criteria becomes clearer when Wal-Mart’s merchandiser for films found Robert Greenwald’s acclaimed documentary, Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War, inappropriate
for Wal-Mart. For no conceivable reason could a documentary
involving no gratuitous violence, expletives, or sex be inappropriate, other than its criticism of a conservative political
By the end of 2004, Wal-Mart’s contribution
to sprawl included enough deserted buildings
nationwide to fill up 534 football fields.
With Wal-Mart’s cost of doing business so high, can any of
What’s more, Wal-Mart’s pursuit of cheap labor around
the globe has exponetially increased the amount of fossil fuels
needed to get a product onto a Wal-Mart shelf. While sourcing locally dramatically reduces fuel and energy use, Wal-Mart
focuses on distributing goods shipped from overseas via the
nation’s largest company-owned fleet of trucks (which averages around 6.5 miles per gallon). Wal-Mart doubled its Chinese imports in the first five years of the 21st century, and in
countries like China, Wal-Mart’s environmental impact is felt
even more acutely because the company can take advantage of
weaker environmental standards.
According to Elizabeth Economy, author of The River Runs
Black: The Environmental Challenge to China's Future (Cornell University Press, 2004), 400,000 people die in China every year
because of respiratory infections related to air pollution. She
told “Talk of the Nation” host Neil Conan in December that
China now contains 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the
world, and that nearly three-quarters of the country’s rivers are
polluted with toxins, acid rain, and erosion.
As Conan remarked, “Those factories in towns that churn out
everything from your latest sneakers to the shiny new bicycle
under a Christmas tree also pump out toxic chemicals and
With its ever-increasing market share, Wal-Mart profits have
allowed Walton family members to claim four of the top ten
spots in the Forbes list of wealthiest people, and they’re using
Co-op America Quarterly
us really afford to shop there?
More and more, US consumers are saying they’ve
had enough of Wal-Mart. In fact, as of July 2005, nearly
300 communities nationwide had successfully kept
Wal-Mart out—a number that’s growing all the time.
With the word clearly spreading on the costs of the
Wal-Mart economy, Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott gave a speech in
October saying that last summer’s Hurricane Katrina opened
his eyes to Wal-Mart’s responsibilities to both local communities and the larger world. He announced small steps forward
for Wal-Mart in areas like employee health care and his stores’
environmental footprints. While praising a co-manager of a
Mississippi store who handed out emergency supplies from
flooded Wal-Mart to needy evacuees during the hurricane,
Scott called her actions “Wal-Mart at its best” and asked,
“What would it take for Wal-Mart to be that company, at our
best, all the time?”
Right now, while Wal-Mart appears to be at a crossroads, is
the critical moment for concerned consumers to step
forward and tell Lee Scott the answer to the question.
Together, we can increase the pressure on Wal-Mart and demand
real improvements. We can work to protect communities that
will be hurt by Wal-Mart’s presence, and most of all, we can
refuse to buy products whose journey from the factory to the
check-out line is tainted by externalized costs to workers, communities, and the environment.
Together, we can say “no” to Wal-Mart’s business model
and start moving beyond the Wal-Mart economy.
—Andrew Korfhage and Liz Borkowski
m designates Co-op America Business Network Member
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Wal-Mart Economy
Skip Wal-Mart,
save money
Do you really save money by
shopping at a discount big-box
store like Wal-Mart? Not necessarily,
say many experts. Here’s what
you need to know. ...
ne of the popular arguments in favor of Wal-Mart is that its discounted prices are
beneficial to low-income people, who need to stretch every dollar as far as
possible to make ends meet. It’s easy enough for the privileged among us to stop
shopping at Wal-Mart to protest the hidden costs of Wal-Mart to workers, communities, and
the environment, but is the company actually providing a vital service to low-income people
by providing cheap goods?
The fact is, by paying its workers low wages that can’t sustain a family of four, Wal-Mart
is driving a US- and worldwide race to the bottom in terms of worker pay and benefits—
thereby increasing poverty. So in the long run, Wal-Mart hurts working people. But how
do you tell that to the single mother who’s struggling to put food on the table? How do you
ask a family who lives from paycheck to paycheck to shop at more expensive stores when they
need to stretch every penny to meet their basic needs?
The good news is that it is possible to find more responsible retail outlets whose prices are
competitive with Wal-Mart’s. Below, we walk you through cost-competitive alternatives to
Wal-Mart. Use them to save money while avoiding this harmful corporate giant, and give this information to others to spread the word that there are ways to
keep your expenses down without shopping at Wal-Mart. Even on a tight budget, you don’t have to rely on Wal-Mart for all your goods and services. It’s
important for all of us to keep the pressure on the company to improve, so workers, communities, and the environment don’t have to pay for Wal-Mart’s
discounted prices.
It is possible to find stores and products that beat—or are at
least competitive with—Wal-Mart’s low prices. Best of all, by
using these alternatives, you’ll know that the money you saved
on your purchases didn’t come at the expense of exploited
workers, decimated communities, or a polluted environment.
Buy Less
Despite Wal-Mart’s strategies for offering “everyday low
prices,” residents of LaQuinta, California, reported to the Los
Angeles Times that the huge variety of goods available in a giant
Wal-Mart tempted them into spending more money than they
intended when they shopped there, rather than less.
“I call it the $100 store,” one shopper told the Times. “You
can’t get out of here for less than $100.”
By making a list of what you truly need and sticking to it,
you may actually save money over shopping at Wal-Mart. Shopping at smaller, local stores or responsible online retailers can
help, as you’ll avoid the temptation to make impulse purchases
that the array of items on Wal-Mart’s sales floor provides.
Choose Quality Over Quantity
Wal-Mart’s low prices often means the items you buy are lower
in quality—which can translate into consumers buying more
of a given item to replace cheaply made purchases that have
become broken or worn. In fact, the US government officials
who calculate the Consumer Price Index—a program that pro-
duces monthly data on changes in the prices paid by urban
consumers for a representative basket of goods and services—
refuse to adjust the index for Wal-Mart’s (and other big box
stores’) lower prices.
"The economists who calculate the Consumer Price Index ...
they say, look, whatever you buy at Wal-Mart, once you've
adjusted for quality, it's no cheaper than anything else," Business Week senior writer Aaron Bernstein told NPR in November.
"The official US government position is that Wal-Mart's prices
are no lower than anybody else's."
“I call it the $100 store,” says one shopper
of Wal-Mart, with its dizzying array of
goods that encourages impulse buys. “You
can’t get out of here for less than $100.”
Buy Used or Barter
Buying used or bartering are terrific alternatives to shopping
for new items, particularly at Wal-Mart. Doing so keeps
unwanted items out of landfills, saves the resources that
would be used in making new items, and can even help build
Our best tips for finding used items you need include:
GARAGE SALES. By checking yard sale ads in your
local paper and showing up when a sale begins, you’ll find the
Co-op America Quarterly
Beyond the
Wal-Mart Economy
widest array of used goods—from clothes to electronics to furniture—at prices that almost always
beat Wal-Mart. Plus, many owners will cut their
prices even further in the last hour or two of a sale.
• GO ONLINE. You can find all sorts of used (and
new) items on Internet auction sides like
and To buy used without the
competitive auction element, try sites like
and ZShops, which allow individuals to
sell used items for fixed prices that almost always
beat the cost of new items. Families without computers at home can log on at local libraries.
• VISIT USED GOODS STORES. You can always find
quality, inexpensive used items at your local Goodwill or other charity store, thrift store, or consignment store. Check your local Yellow Pages to find
thrift, charity, and consignment stores near you. To
find your nearest Goodwill, visit
• FREECYCLE . To get the used items you need for
free, sign up for your area’s local Freecycle list at Members can only offer items
they want to give away for free—no selling or trading
allowed. Besides putting in a request for items you
see offered on the list, you can also request something
The official US government position is that
Wal-Mart’s prices are no lower than anybody else’s.
that you need (for free) from list members. And, if
you yourself have old items gathering dust, Freecycle
is a great way to get them into the hands of people
who can use them.
• BARTER ONLINE. The Internet offers a handful of
options for people wanting to trade their unwanted used items for things they need, and one of the
most widely known is Craig’s List. With local
Craig’s List listservs in 190 communities across the
US, facilitating local trading is only a click of a
mouse away. To arrange a barter locally, visit
• HOLD A SWAP PARTY . Gather your friends,
coworkers, and family and have them bring their
unwanted items to your house for a good old-fashioned swap party. You can swap toys, books,
clothes, or any kind of items you choose. Besides
providing a great time, you’ll get rid of the things
you don’t need, and acquire things you can use—
all for free.
Cut out the middleman/-woman
The costs of items in a store go up with every person added to the supply chain—from the person
who makes the goods to those who market them
and sell them. By buying directly from the people
who make or grow your items, you may save some
money. For example, buying produce from a road14
Co-op America Quarterly
side farmstand or farmers’ market can provide great
deals, as can getting furniture and home decor
items from a craft or artist fair.
Buy Better in Bulk
Some stores that sell items in bulk provide discounts
comparable to those offered by Wal-Mart, and they
can be more responsible. If you don’t have the space
at home to store bulk items, consider buying together with friends and neighbors, sharing the costs and
dividing up the items among you.
Here are two sources of the best bulk discounts
we found:
one-time membership fee of $10, Frontier (800/7861388, offers a variety of natural and organic body care products, aromatherapy
and home decor items, spices and herbs, teas, foods,
and essential oils in its catalog and online, in both
regular and bulk sizes. Best of all, if you form a “buying club” of five friends or coworkers (or with your
community group or house of worship), you’ll be able
to take advantage of Frontier’s wholesale prices,
which are competitive with Wal-Mart’s discounts.
• C OSTCO : Costco is a bulk discount warehouse
chain much like Wal-Mart-owned Sam’s Club, where
you pay a small membership fee to shop. Though only
about 15 percent of Costco stores are unionized, Costco pays its workers an average of $17 per hour plus generous benefits, including an excellent health plan. The
company offers domestic partner benefits and has a nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation.
The nonprofit Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) is
urging congregations to make bulk purchases from
Costco rather than the Wal-Mart-owned Sam’s Club,
and then tell the companies why you made the switch.
IWJ makes sample letters available online that a congregation can use to alert Costco, Sam's Club, and the
local media to their decision.
However, Costco’s land procurement policies have
drawn fire from environmentalists, who say that the
company has built stores with little regard for environmental preservation or indigenous rights. In 2003 in
Cuernavaca Morelos, Mexico, for example, Costco contractors destroyed murals representative of Mexican
culture, a 3000-year-old Olmec site, and millions of
cubic meters of old-growth trees at a site on which they
built a huge warehouse store. In short, Costco is a reasonable “big box” alternative, but there are still cautions, so even better to go for green and local options.
Look for Green Discounts
To make buying green a little cheaper, look for green
discount opportunities. Scour sale circulars and look for
sale signs at your local independent stores. Starred
entries in Co-op America’s National Green PagesTM indicate
green companies offering discounts on their products
m designates Co-op America Business Network Member
Beyond the
Wal-Mart Economy
and services. Our Real Money newsletter insert also
includes a “green discounts” section, containing discounts on green products and services, and our online
newsletter also provides discount information (sign up
at And’s m Annie
Berthold-Bond offers green discounts in her free online
newsletter, “Annie’s Everyday Solutions,” available at
Not everything at Wal-Mart is cheaper than it is at
other stores, especially, as mentioned above, when you
adjust for quality. If you truly need to shop at a discount
store like Wal-Mart, consider sticking to those items
that are really cheaper, and making other purchases
from more responsible outlets.
Studies unveiled last November at a Washington,
DC, conference on Wal-Mart’s impact on the US economy indicate that Wal-Mart’s food prices average 27
percent lower than rivals’, and a representative basket
of eight body care items like shampoo are 12 percent
lower. So, while those of us on a budget might buy food
and non-organic body care staples at Wal-Mart, consider buying clothing and home items elsewhere.
Also, Wal-Mart has recently begun offering organic cotton clothing and organic food items, so if you need
to shop at Wal-Mart, buy organic whenever possible.
That way, you’re also supporting the organic businesses that are in Wal-Mart’s supply chain, and you’re letting the company know with your dollars that you want
it to be greener.
For those of us fortunate enough to have a little extra
spending power, avoiding Wal-Mart altogether is the
best way to send the retailer a powerful message that
it needs to change the way it does business. But if you
or someone you know is on a tight budget, you can still
send Wal-Mart a message by being mindful about how
you shop there—and by buying local, used, and green
whenever you can.
—Tracy Fernandez Rysavy
Co-op America Quarterly editors took up a challenge to see if we could beat or come close to Wal-Mart’s discounted prices by finding the
same or comparable items at local independent stores, green retailers, and shops that sold used items. Here are our results:
Women’s jersey knit wrap skirt
Women’s embroidered silk wrap skirt
$6 (sale basket at a local independent store)
Matching fitted T-shirt
$5 (on sale)
$6 (same as above)
Women’s slides
$11 (sale item at No Sweat Apparel-—
sweatshop-free, union-made)
Men’s jeans
$5 (yard sale)
Men’s long-sleeved button-down shirt
$2 (local thrift store)
Men’s black belt
$14.97 (leather)
$16.95 (hemp, from Hemp Sisters m )
Johnson’s cotton swabs (500 ct.)
$3.30 (local independent drug store)
Colgate total clean mint toothpaste(6 oz.)
$3.09 (local independent drug store)
Colgate toothbrush, medium
Fuch’s EcoTek toothbrush
with 2 replacement heads
$0.99/brush—$2.97 for three toothbrush heads
(Frontier Natural Foods Co-op m )
Home Health’s Almond Glow skin lotion
Lubriderm skin lotion
$6.24 (Frontier Natural Foods Co-op m )
Active Enzyme deodorant stick (2.48 oz.)
Sure “fresh scent” deodorant, solid (2.6 oz.)
$2.76 (Frontier Natural Foods Co-op m )
Gilette foamy moisture hydrant shaving cream
$2.30 (local independent drug store)
Tomato soup
$0.50 (local independent grocery sale item)
Rice Krispies
$2.50 (local independent grocery sale item)
Bag peeled baby carrots (1 lb.)
$1.69 (organic, local farmers’ market)
Oranges (each)
$0.49 (organic, local farmers’ market)
Co-op America Quarterly
Beyond the
Fighting off the
• Ta
the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, Sprawl-Busters,
or other organizations. You can also find a wealth of information and tips in Al Norman’s book Slam-Dunking Wal-Mart:
How You Can Stop Superstore Sprawl in Your Hometown,
which is available from Sprawl-Busters.
3. BUILD A COALITION: Whether you’re working with
established groups or forming a new one, reach out to other
organizations in your area. Approach environmental and smallbusiness groups about working together. Talk to religious and
political leaders as well as business leaders, and remember to
reach out to business groups representing specific populations,
such as African-Americans, Latinos, or women. You’ll need to
know about the hopes and concerns that all community residents have about development, and you’ll need to work together to create legislation and plans that will truly benefit everyone.
4. SPREAD THE WORD. Education is key to bringing local residents to your side. Pass out fliers, write letters to the
editor of your local newspaper, and organize educational
events with speakers and handouts to let people in your area
know what’s really at stake. Be prepared to explain why WalMart jobs aren’t the kind of jobs your community needs and
Wal-Mart prices don’t really add up to savings—to show that
Wal-Mart isn’t really a solution for working families and lowincome residents.
Gather Support
Whether you want to keep Wal-Mart out of your
community or it’s already there, you’ll need to band
together with your fellow citizens to get the company to change for the better. Use these tactics to gather support:
neighborhood association or citizens’ group and see if
its members will help lead the fight against a proposed
Wal-Mart. You can also contact your state’s ACORN office or
an area Jobs with Justice coalition to see if they can
provide assistance. If there’s a local independent-business
coalition, its members will likely want to keep Wal-Mart out,
so it may be a powerful ally as well.
2. START A NEW GROUP. If no citizens’ group exists,
you may need to form a new group. Several successful local
organizations—such as Glendale Citizens for Responsible
Development of Glendale, Arizona, and Southwest Springfield Neighbors Association of Springfield, Illinois—formed
in response to proposed new Wal-Mart stores and were able
to organize support and resources quickly.
You can get advice on local anti-big-box campaigns from
ke ti
Big Box
AP/WideWorld Photo
• Ta
al-Mart may have size on its side, but community
pride and determination can trump even the largest
of retail behemoths. For instance, a citizen group in
tiny Charlevoix, Michigan, succeeded where many thought they
would fail, successfully fending off a Wal-Mart Supercenter slated for their area (see box on p. 17). In Corvallis, Oregon, a community group used a cap on store size to prevent the approval
of a new Supercenter, and inspired the entire county to adopt
similar legislation. And in Prince George’s County, Maryland, a
broad citizens’ group is making gains against Wal-Mart and
progress for the whole state (see “Wal-Mart Hits Close to
Home” on p. 20).
Similar groups in cities and towns across America are
taking a stand against the Wal-Mart economy—and they’re succeeding in fighting off the corporate giant or forcing it to behave
better. If your community is facing a new Wal-Mart or is already
feeling the impact from a local store, you can make a difference.
Over the next several pages, you’ll find out what to do if
you live in a Wal-Mart-free place, if Wal-Mart’s trying to move
into (or expand its reach in) your community, or if you’ve already
experienced the retail giant’s impact close to home. Plus, no matter what your Wal-Mart situation is, there are ways you can help
strengthen your local economy and build a more just and sustainable global economy. People all over the country are taking
on the task, and showing that there are many ways to win.
ke ti
Hundreds of cities and towns have shown
that it is possible to stop big-box stores
like Wal-Mart from settling in their neighborhoods. Here’s how you can do the
same, or, if they’re already in place, make
them into better corporate citizens.
Wal-Mart Economy
Co-op America Quarterly
Members of the Mohican Nation gather in Leeds, NY to protest the proposed
building of a Wal-Mart on a sacred Mohican burial site. Wal-Mart ultimately
abandoned the site.
m designates Co-op America Business Network Member
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Wal-Mart Economy
To assist you in such efforts, the nonprofits Wake-Up
Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart Watch both offer a wealth of
information about Wal-Mart’s impacts. The Institute for
Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) compiles information about how
communities around the country are being affected by
big-box stores, and how they can advance better models of
economic development.
…if Wal-Mart hasn’t come to town
Start efforts to keep Wal-Mart out of your town
before you’re facing a battle with a developer, recommends Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher for the
ILSR and author of the book The Home Town Advantage: How to
Defend Your Main Street Against Chain Stores … and Why It Matters
(ILSR, 2000). “If you think you live in a town that’s too small
for a Wal-Mart, or an urban area where Wal-Mart won’t
want to locate, or a place that has enough Wal-Marts already,
you’re wrong,” she adds. “They want to go everywhere.”
To keep Wal-Mart away from your neighborhood,
gather your fellow community members, and:
1. BE READY: A key step to keeping Wal-Mart at bay before
it starts sniffing around your area is to stay informed about
what’s going on with your local government. Rules vary
between different cities, states, and counties, but in many
cases, Wal-Mart’s proposals to build new stores must be
approved by a city council, planning commission, or similar
body. The meetings of these groups are where you can urge
legislators to reject the company’s proposed
development—making your case about increased traffic, low
wages, sprawling development, and other ills you fear
Wal-Mart will bring.
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“Hundreds of communities have prevented Wal-Mart
from going through with its development plans,” says
Mitchell. “Local governments have the legal authority to
block a proposed Wal-Mart—it’s more a question of
whether the political will exists to do so.”
One thing to watch for is that Wal-Mart has become
adept at coming into a community quietly and suddenly,
to minimize opposition to its presence. The company, says
Mitchell, “is very clever and very sneaky,” often working
through a local developer, so residents “may not know
they’re trying to come in until four weeks before a planning board meeting.”
Some communities have rules requiring that proposed
new developments automatically trigger a review,
public notification, or public hearings. If your community
doesn’t have such rules, ask your lawmakers to consider
adopting them so no one is taken by surprise by new
development projects.
no clear barriers to Wal-Mart’s proposals exist, some
communities have decided to adopt size caps or other rules
under which Wal-Mart stores—or at least their larger
Supercenters—would not be admissible. Some rules may
not keep Wal-Mart from coming in, but may reduce its
harmful impact by restricting its size, hours, or other aspects
or by requiring that it provide pay and benefits sufficient for
workers to support their families.
Even without taking Wal-Mart’s possible presence
into account, it makes sense to set local standards for
development that reflects your area’s needs and goals.
There are several rules that will help build an economy
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How Charlevoix, Michigan, fought off a
proposed Wal-Mart for their town.
In 2003, the residents of tiny Charlevoix, Michigan, didn’t
shrink from a fight with Wal-Mart when the retail giant
announced plans for a 157,000-square-foot Supercenter their
small town.
By early 2004, 30 of them had organized “This is Our Town,
Inc.,” a nonprofit Wal-Mart resistance group, and had gathered
more than 2,500 signatures on an anti-Wal-Mart petition—in an
area with a population of less than 9,000.
“It’s not just the downtown at risk—it’s our entire town,”
petitioner David Beane told the Detroit Business News. “This is
a nice, beautiful town with a walkable downtown, and we don’t
want to risk that for a Wal-Mart Supercenter … to come up here
and run businesses out.”
The group invited Al Norman, author of Slam-Dunking
Wal-Mart (Raphel Marketing, 1999), to advise them on strategies
for keeping Wal-Mart out, and quickly sounded the alarm on
what the store would do to local businesses and the small-town
charm that makes Charlevoix a popular Lake Michigan tourist
destination. The “This is Our Town” group was also joined by the
local Watershed Council in making the case to the Michigan
Department of Environmental Quality that the spawning runs
of native brook trout and salmon in nearby wetlands would be
disrupted by the additional run-off caused by Wal-Mart’s giant
parking lot and flat roof.
While Charlevoix’s planning commission was still reviewing
Wal-Mart’s site plans, and as opposition mounted among
townspeople, the giant retailer announced it would not pursue
its announced Supercenter project in Charlevoix—adding tiny
Charlevoix to a growing list (more than a hundred strong,
according to Norman) of communities that have said “no” to
making their local economy a Wal-Mart economy.
The group’s work did not end with its initial victory, however,
as members of “This Is Our Town” went on to lobby the city council
for new zoning ordinances to solve the Wal-Mart problem for
good. In May 2005, around the time the Supercenter had been
scheduled to open, Charlevoix residents celebrated the passage
of a city measure that caps retail stores at 45,000 square feet—
about a quarter of the size of a typical Supercenter.
The group’s success has inspired similar groups to oppose
Wal-Marts slated for development in other parts of Michigan,
including Rochester Hills, Pittsfield Township, and most recently
Livonia, where plans for a new store were announced in
September 2005. And in areas where Wal-Mart is already
present or slated to arrive—as is the case with an urban
community in a Maryland suburb of DC (see p. 20)—citizens
are taking steps to force Wal-Mart to improve its social and
environmental practices and be a better corporate neighbor.
Co-op America Quarterly
Beyond the
Wake-Up Wal-Mart
Wal-Mart Economy
Workers, elected officials, and community leaders gathered in 30 cities across the
country last August to explain the many ways that “Wal-Mart Fails America.”
that’s designed to meet your community’s needs rather than
to generate profits for corporations headquartered far away.
• Spell out goals: One strategy to keep Wal-Mart out and
local businesses in business is to spell out communityminded goals in your area’s comprehensive plan. A single
elected leader can promote a process to develop a new plan
or alter an old one, or a group of committed citizens may
convince a local governing body to set the wheels in motion.
“Plans that clearly articulate a policy to promote small,
local retail businesses and discourage corporate chains
will help ensure that these goals are the focus of planning
board decisions,” ILSR’s New Rules Project explains. The
comprehensive plan of Corvallis, Oregon, requires the city to
“maintain a low unemployment rate and promote diversification of the local economy” and to “support existing businesses and industries and the establishment of locally owned,
managed, or controlled small businesses.”
Such plans can also provide legal protection if a developer challenges a municipality’s land-use decision in court.
The Minnesota Planning agency has published “Under
Construction: Tools and Techniques for Local Planning,” a
guide that can help a community undertake a planning
process involving a diversity of stakeholders.
• Push for size caps: One of the most common ways that
local governments limit large retailers like Wal-Mart is by
adopting size caps. Neighborhoods, cities, and counties
from Bozeman, Montana, to Talbot County, Maryland, have
used these to limit the size of new retail development.
These caps may be absolute, or they may require
proposed developments above a certain size to go through an
additional review process. For example, several communities
require comprehensive economic and community impact
reviews for proposed new retail construction that would
exceed a particular size. In Greenfield, Massachusetts,
developers must pay for studies assessing the project’s likely
impact on traffic, municipal services, public revenue, the
environment, the local economy, and the community.
“Store size caps help to sustain the vitality of small-scale,
pedestrian-oriented business districts, which in turn
nurture local business development,” explains the
New Rules Project, which lists examples of this kind of
legislation on its Web site.
Co-op America Quarterly
• Legislate for the environment: Some citizens’ groups have
successfully fended off new Wal-Mart stores by showing
that the proposed stores’ plans are inadequate to
address stormwater runoff, increased car traffic, and other
environmental concerns. Find out what kinds of land-use
and environmental regulations your area has for new
development, and if they’re not strong enough, advocate for
improvements. You can also encourage your community to
require that large retailers take green steps such as using
energy-efficient lighting, installing solar panels, and making the store accessible to bus riders.
• Advocate for better wage laws: When charged that its
workers can’t make enough money to live, Wal-Mart often
counters that it pays above the federal minimum wage.
What’s not mentioned, however, is that a worker making
the federal minimum wage does not make nearly enough
money to support a family.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, a parent
working a full-time minimum wage job would have earnings and a low-income tax credit that together would still
fall more than five percent below the poverty threshold for
a family of three. Faced with this reality, many cities have
required more of the businesses in their communities. For
example, in 2003, Santa Fe passed a law requiring nearly
all employers to pay at least $8.50 an hour, raising the bar
for community businesses.
ACORN provides resources that can help you advance
living wage legislation in your community. Their Web site
features background materials, drafting tips, research
summaries, talking points, and links to other living wagerelated sites, and their office in your state may be able to
provide assistance. Local Jobs with Justice (JwJ) coalitions
have also supported living wage efforts in communities from
Louisville, Kentucky, to Portland, Oregon, so see if there’s a
JwJ group in your area.
On the national level, you can support efforts to raise the
federal minimum wage, which has stalled at $5.15 per hour
since 1997. Interfaith Worker Justice organized individuals
and religious leaders to support the Fair Minimum Wage
Act of 2005 and will continue to work for fair-minimumwage legislation in 2006.
• Support Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs) A concept
pioneered by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy
(LAANE), a CBA is a legally binding agreement that
communities can present to developers specifying benefits
to be provided to neighborhoods affected by their
developments. A CBA can force a developer to make good
on its promises to benefit a community, by insisting on
guarantees of living-wage jobs, affordable health care, and
so on. A year after the city of Inglewood, California, killed
a Wal-Mart deal by referendum, a group of local
politicians and citizens called the Coalition for a Better
Inglewood drew up a CBA mandating not only good jobs
with health care, but also assurances that big-box retailers
that wish to locate in Inglewood will not increase
local pollution and will protect the interests of small
businesses. For more information on drafting CBAs, visit for a downloadable CBA handbook.
m designates Co-op America Business Network Member
Beyond the
Wal-Mart Economy
“If you think you live in a town that’s too
small for Wal-Mart, or an urban area where
it won’t want to locate, you’re wrong.”
…if Wal-Mart is already in your area
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If you’re one of the nearly 4,000 communities
where a Wal-Mart store already exists, you can
work to make it be a better corporate citizen in
your community:
use the Wal-Mart store as the focal point for an ongoing
community discussion about what truly beneficial local
economic development should look like. The following
organizations can help you keep your community informed
about the high costs of hosting Wal-Mart and pressure it to
be a better community member:
• Wake-Up Wal-Mart involves grassroots leaders and
community groups from across the country in harnessing
consumer power to reform Wal-Mart’s ways. The
campaign’s more than 2,000 “Leaders for Change” from
around the country have volunteered to lead grassroots
organizing efforts around existing Wal-Mart stores in their
communities—public tabling, flyering, canvassing,
and phone banking to alert residents to the problems with
Wal-Mart and the solutions that the company must be
urged to adopt.
In a national week of action conducted in conjunction
with Wal-Mart Watch last November, Wake-Up Wal-Mart
participants held events in communities across the country
featuring Robert Greenwald’s film Wal-Mart: The High Cost of
Low Price and other educational materials. Wake-Up
Wal-Mart holds other nationwide campaign events several
times during the year, such as last fall’s “Send Wal-Mart
Back to School” campaign, in which teachers, students, and
community members held coordinated press conferences
across the country asking shoppers to pledge not to buy
school supplies from the retailer until it reforms.
• The National Organization for Women (NOW) has declared
Wal-Mart a “Merchant of Shame,” and several local NOW
chapters have held demonstrations at stores, where they’ve
distributed information about treatment of Wal-Mart
workers and its gender gap in hiring and promotions.
Ask your local NOW chapter if it has any Wal-Mart
activities planned.
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Although Wal-Mart began its expansion by
building stores in rural and exurban areas, it’s
recently begun muscling its way into cities and their
close-in suburbs. No matter where you live, you’ll need to
organize and fight back if you want to keep the Wal-Mart
Economy off your turf. If you discover that Wal-Mart has targeted your community for a store or Supercenter, use these
steps to keep it out.
1. RAISE FUNDS: While many communities have kept
Wal-Mart away without the billions of dollars the retail
giant has to spend, you’ll need to raise some money to cover
legal and publicity costs. Local retailers are often willing to
contribute to anti-big-box campaigns, and other local organizations—including unions, religious groups, and neighborhood associations—may be able to give donations or
assist with fundraising efforts. Wake-Up Wal-Mart also
suggests canvassing the area closest to the site of the
proposed store to raise money and support.
2. HIRE AN ATTORNEY: If your community decides to
organize against a Wal-Mart, Mitchell suggests contacting
an attorney as soon as possible, because “Wal-Mart has an
army of attorneys who are experts in exploiting local
processes.” Groups such as ILSR and Sprawl-Busters can
help you find one with experience in helping groups oppose
undesirable retail proposals.
3. CHECK THE RULES: Your attorney can help you figure out
where legal weaknesses in Wal-Mart’s proposal to enter
your city or town lie. In many cases, Wal-Mart store
proposals don’t fit within zoning regulations for the size and
intended use of their development. When this happens, the
local government will need to consider whether to grant
Wal-Mart an exception.
Check your area’s comprehensive plan, which Mitchell
describes as “a vision statement for your community that
shapes the zoning rules,” and see whether Wal-Mart’s proposal is really a good fit with that plan; if not, put pressure
on the local government to deny the retailer’s request.
4. MAKE NEW RULES: It’s not too late to get your local
government to impose size caps, better wage laws, CBAs, or
other rules under which Wal-Mart stores or Supercenters
would not be admissible—or, at least, would have
to improve their business-as-usual practices. For more
information on these types of rules, see the previous section,
“If Wal-Mart Hasn’t Come to Town.”
Mitchell says that Wal-Mart occasionally tries to
overturn such rules by pouring substantial sums into get-
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…if Wal-Mart is trying to move in
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ting a referendum on them onto the local ballot—and
then advertising heavily to convince voters to overturn the
legislation. Still, she notes that many communities have
been able to defend their legislation against Wal-Mart’s
well-funded efforts.
“This is an issue everyone really seems to get—people
who’ve never been to a city council meeting are now
knocking on doors to talk to their neighbors about big-box
stores,” she says.
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• Think regionally: Mitchell recommends that rules like
those laying down size caps or establishing living wages be
adopted for regions as well as individual cities or towns.
Wal-Mart, she says, often “plays one town against another,”
threatening to build their store in an adjacent community
if one community puts up barriers. New Jersey legislators,
for instance, have introduced a bill requiring big boxes that
sell groceries to undergo analyses that assess their impacts
on the entire region.
continued on page 21
Co-op America Quarterly
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Beyond the
Wal-Mart Economy
Wal-Mart Hits Close to Home
al-mart has brought my work life
and community life together in a
way no issue has before. At Co-op America, where I have worked for more than 20
years, we’re putting our joyful vision of a
global green economy up against bleak
vision of the Wal-Mart’s economy. In my
community, which I’ve worked with my
neighbors for 15 years to revitalize, we’re
struggling to keep the arrival of WalMart from destroying everything we’ve
fought hard to achieve.
My community is a working- and
middle-class neighborhood with a largely African-American and Latino makeup,
located in an urban area on Washington,
DC’s border. When migration to the
outer DC suburbs occurred in the ’70s
and ’80s, our community was left with
the worst schools in the county and a
lack of essential retail and services. Half
our stores stood vacant, and the remainder—mostly liquor stores, pawnshops,
and fast food restaurants—contributed
to economic decline and rising crime.
Ten years ago, we formed several
community groups to reverse this trend
and to create a livable, sustainable community at every level: better schools,
youth employment opportunities, pedestrian-friendly development, and a thriving locally controlled commercial sector.
Today, our waterfront, once polluted and abandoned, is a park and community hub; we have brand-new schools,
and our Jobs for Youth program is flourishing; new political leaders have
emerged from our neighborhoods; shopping centers are 100-percent occupied
and feature locally and minority-owned
businesses; and 80 percent of homes are
owner-occupied in safer and more walkable neighborhoods.
Last summer, a county council
member and I heard from another local
resident that Wal-Mart was planning to
move into a nearby abandoned mall. We
were shocked, and we knew we’d have
to act quickly. Within a week, my neighbors and I built a coalition to address
this issue.
Our coalition included local business
leaders, unions, community and envi20 Co-op America Quarterly
ronmental activists, people of faith, and
local politicians. Some members wanted the Wal-Mart, since it was to replace
an abandoned mall that had long been an
eyesore. Others knew that Wal-Mart’s
arrival could reverse the progress we’d
We compromised on a strategy to
make Wal-Mart a better neighbor to us
than they’ve been to countless other
urban and rural communities. Our coalition drafted “Community Standards for
Big Box Development in our County,”
which identifies employment, health
care, site and building design, environmental issues, and safety concerns we
want big-box stores to address.
Wal-Mart fought back with newspaper ads painting us as outsiders interfering with quality retail. Meanwhile, we
kept up our work to educate residents by
sharing information with local groups,
holding screenings of Robert Greenwald’s film The High Cost of Low Price, and
talking one-on-one with our neighbors.
Some residents who’d initially supported Wal-Mart changed their minds once
they heard about the impacts it has had
on small businesses in other areas or
realized that uninsured Wal-Mart workers would place even more of a strain on
the already-bankrupt community hospital one mile from the proposed store site.
Our coalition presented our Community Standards to Wal-Mart representatives and the developer. WalMart’s lawyers tried to dismiss our
arguments, but we were able to back
them up with evidence from respected
studies and news articles. Later, we
learned that Wal-Mart had already
been granted a building permit for this
store (hidden within the site demolition
permit), so it would be built no matter
how much opposition we mobilized.
Nonetheless, we continued to negotiate with the company.
To date, Wal-Mart has made preliminary verbal concessions to some of
our demands: No superstore or grocery
store (which would threaten jobs at
nearby unionized supermarkets), no
alcohol or firearms, no 24-hour store (to
Co-op America’s Green Business Director
Denise Hamler works with her community
to build a thriving local economy.
keep crime from spiking), and a design
that includes pedestrian-friendly features. We have yet to reach agreement on
wages, health insurance, and how WalMart will reduce its energy use and
stormwater runoff.
We’re now working with the site
developer to make sure that the parcel of
land will also include meeting space for
local groups, nonprofit office space, and
locally owned restaurants. Also, we’re
addressing big-box stores’ impacts on
our county and state. In November, we
achieved new county legislation that
allows for more community input and
oversight on plans for any new big-box
stores. We have also supported the
Maryland Fair Share Health Care Act,
which will require all large employers to
spend a minimum amount on employee
health care. This bill became law in January when our General Assembly mustered the number of votes necessary to
override our governor’s veto. Even better, versions of this groundbreaking legislation are now pending in 30 states.
We still don’t know what will happen on the site of this new Wal-Mart
store, but we’ve made strides that will
shape the way further big-box developments occur in our area. We’ve also
assembled a strong coalition that will
plan and support locally centered business development in our community.
My experience with Wal-Mart has
reminded me of the power and sincerity
of a group of people coming together.
The only thing powerful enough to stop
the Wal-Mart economy and build a
green economy is us.
—Denise Hamler
m designates Co-op America Business Network Member
Beyond the
Wal-Mart Economy
Ask your legislators to take steps to improve conditions for
Wal-Mart workers. Talk to local officials about establishing
a living wage ordinance, for example (for more information,
see “Advocate for Better Wage Laws” on p. 18). Or, ask state
legislators to push Wal-Mart to improve its salaries and
benefits or to contribute more to the costs that taxpayers
bear for Wal-Mart employees.
Some officials are already leading the way. Last October,
for example, the New York City Council overrode Mayor
Bloomberg’s veto of a bill requiring large food retailers—
those with at least 35 employees and 10,000 square feet of
space—to contribute to employee health benefits at a rate
of $2.50 to $3.00 an hour for every worker. In January, Maryland lawmakers overrode their governor’s veto of a bill that
requires private companies with more than 10,000 employees in the state to devote at least eight percent of their pay-
…no matter what Wal-Mart is doing
Whether Wal-Mart has come to your community or
not, there are steps to keep the pressure on the
retail giant to improve the way it does business.
local economy by spending your dollars at local,
independent businesses and encouraging your neighbors to
do the same. Studies from Austin, Texas, to Midcoast Maine
have found that spending at local businesses generates
around three times as much money for the local economy as
spending at national chains.
Although it’s harder to quantify the value of local
retailers’ community involvement and ability to tailor
their goods and services to their areas, customers appreciate
these less-tangible contributions. (Visit to learn how one independent bookstore in Austin fills an important niche in that city.
Check the geographic index of Co-op America’s
National Green Pages™ (free online at
or available for $11.95 by calling 800/58-GREEN) to find
businesses in your area that have demonstrated their
commitment to social and environmental responsibility.
In addition to shopping at local stores, you can also help
create or strengthen a local alliance that encourages community members to support their homegrown businesses.
One way to start is to create a local chapter of one of the
national organizations promoting strong local economies.
With programs in Philadelphia, West Michigan, San
Francisco, Salt Lake City, northwest Washington state, and
Portland, Oregon, BALLE’s “Local First” campaign offers a
“how-to” kit for communities wishing to start their own
“Local First” programs and publicize ways communities can
benefit when their business stays local.
To bolster support from local consumers, “Local First”
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Wal-Mart has shown itself willing to take some positive
environmental steps, including opening two energyefficient, green-energy-powered stores and adopting
biodegradable plastic containers for some deli items. Ask
your local store to reduce the enormous environmental cost
of manufacturing and shipping its products, powering its
store, and spurring thousands of car trips. Also make sure
that they’re following existing environmental laws. In
Charlotte, North Carolina, environmentalist Donna Lisenby
(who is profiled in Greenwald’s film) successfully pressured
her local Wal-Mart stores to improve storage procedures for
chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Lisenby had discovered
these items stored outdoors and close to storm drains,
where they could contaminate the local water supply.
Studies say that spending at local businesses
generates three times as much money for the
local economy as spending at national chains.
roll expenditures to health benefits, or else contribute to the
state’s insurance program for the poor. In Montana, legislation has been introduced that would impose an additional
tax on retailers with more than $20 million in annual sales
that provide entry-level workers with less than $22,000 in
total annual compensation (including health benefits, insurance, etc.). Proposed Maine legislation would impose a
three-percent tax on gross receipts of stores larger than
60,000 square feet and use the money for the state’s health
care and small-enterprise programs. Following Maryland’s
passage of their bill, more than 30 states are considering
similar legislation.
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Check with Wake-Up Wal-Mart and NOW to see if
they’re already working in your area, and consider signing
up to become a local campaign leader if they aren’t. Both
have brochures and other materials available by mail or on
their Web site for events.
For in-depth education, consider bringing a speaker to
your community. The International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) is
sponsoring the International Wal-Mart Worker Tour,
which brings garment workers from Indonesia, Nicaragua,
Swaziland, and other countries to speak about their
experiences making clothing for Wal-Mart. The workers’
visits generally include open-to-the-public speeches as well
as a visit to the local Wal-Mart store, where the workers
look for the pieces of clothing sewn in their factories. Hosts
generally cover the cost of the workers’ meals and lodging
as well as contributing to travel expenses, so these visits are
most often arranged by local groups who have a budget to
accommodate such an event. Other arrangements can
sometimes be made for communities that have financial
limitations but are interested in the tour, though, so contact
ILRF in any case.
Web Exclusive!: Read more about locally owned businesses like BookPeople, a thriving Co-op America member in
Austin, Texas that rejects Wal-Mart’s dominance of the book market—and is winning awards for its positive effects
on the local community. Visit
Co-op America Quarterly
In many ways, the Green Century Funds are like other mutual funds – we try to invest in companies that we
think are building a brighter future. It’s just that our definition of “building a bright future” includes more
than corporate earnings – it includes cleaner air and water, healthier communities, safer food and sustainable
use of resources.
So when our friends at Co-op America told us they were running
an entire issue on Wal-Mart, we thought we’d let their readers
know how Wal-Mart fit into our vision for that bright future.
What kind of future are you investing in?
I nv e st i n a G r e e n Fut ur e
Please call 1-800-93-GREEN or visit for more information.
You should carefully consider the Funds’ investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses before investing. To
obtain a prospectus that contains this and other information about the Funds, please visit www.greencentury.
com, email [email protected] or call 1-800-93-GREEN for more information. Please read the prospectus
carefully before investing.
Distributed by UMB Distribution Services, LLC., 12/05
Beyond the
Wal-Mart Economy
AP/WideWorld Photo
campaigns enlist a number of creative methods, from the “buy
local” scavenger hunt (in which participants could win prizes
for visiting a range of local businesses) staged by the Portland
chapter last May, to coordinated local-business discount days
in Philadelphia.
Similarly, the American Independent Business
Association (AMIBA) has affiliates in 15 areas across the country. These groups help educate local residents and media about
the importance of locally owned businesses, create joint marketing efforts such as “Celebrate Your Independents” promotions for July 4th, and support community efforts to improve
residents’ quality of life.
In Tallahassee, Florida, the AMIBA affiliate Independent
Business and Community Alliance (IBaCA), created a
“Shop Local” brochure publicizing independent Tallahassee
businesses. Zan Bielec, owner of The Other Side vintage clothing and furniture store, notes that he joined in order
to be listed in the brochure but found many other benefits to
IBaCA membership: “We have had the opportunity to meet
other local businesses at meetings and exchange ideas about
what works and what does not. This type of exchange is priceless to local businesses. For less than one print ad, we have
obtained many more clients, and we have had the opportunity to give back to Tallahassee through the annual Feed the
Community Festival … It is a win-win association!”
Some small towns in the Western US have gone so far as
to launch community-owned department stores, which offer
many of the same products as Wal-Mart but keep the profits
close to home. Residents of Powell, Wyoming, decided to
launch one of these stores in 2001 after the town’s last general
clothing store closed, and they funded the launch of “the Mercantile” with $500 shares sold to community members. Critics predicted that shoppers seeking low prices would travel to
the Wal-Mart 25 miles away rather than patronizing “the
Merc,” but residents proved them wrong. More than three
years after it opened, the store is thriving, and Smithsonian magazine has profiled Powell’s retail renaissance.
2. BUY GREEN AND USED. If you can’t find what you need
locally—which may be the case if Wal-Mart has already
decimated the local competition—buy used or buy green. You
can order products through green businesses such as those
listed in Co-op America’s National Green Pages™. Encourage your
local schools, organizations, and religious institutions to purchase only from local or green businesses, especially for staples such as paper, office supplies, and coffee.
3. JOIN SHAREHOLDER CAMPAIGNS: Shareholder advocates,
who use their roles as part-owners of companies to press for
change in corporate policies, have been working for years to get
Wal-Mart to improve its labor practices here and abroad.
“When we first started back in 1995, Wal-Mart basically
said they didn’t have any responsibility for what was going on
in their supply chain, besides communicating their standards
to vendors,” explains David Schilling, director of Global Corporate Accountability Programs for Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR).
ICCR is a coalition of 275 faith-based institutional
investors, and Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott has acknowledged
Citizens in Chicago protest a Wal-Mart slated for their area.
that ICCR members have been influential in shaping the company’s views on corporate social responsibility. After years of
dialogue, ICCR members have convinced Wal-Mart to make
some improvements on supply chain issues, including amending its supplier code of conduct to include free association and
collective bargaining, taking more responsibility for monitoring the conditions under which Wal-Mart lines of products are
made, and conducting training and education of suppliers.
ICCR members also urge Wal-Mart to improve its US-employee policies, particularly those on health care.
“We’ve had some influence and can see some incremental
changes, but we’re still concerned,” says Schilling. “Shareholder
resolutions are essential for getting social, environmental, and
sustainability issues before the company’s board and the general
public.” These resolutions appear on the ballot at the company’s
TAKE ACTION: Use the postcard in the center of this guide to let
Wal-Mart know that you prefer to shop from retailers that provide
decent wages and health care for their employees, have strong
standards in place to ensure the rights of workers throughout their
supply chains, minimize their environmental impacts, and respect the
communities in which they’re located. Then, send us the “I Did It!”
postcard to let us know what steps you’re taking.
SPREAD THE WORD: Order extra copies of this guide to help educate
your friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers about the problems
with the Wal-Mart economy and the alternatives they can help build.
Use the postcard in the center of this issue to request up to 100 extra
copies (we’ll ask you to help pay shipping on orders of more than five),
or call 800/58-GREEN to order.
SUPPORT GREEN BUSINESSES: Instead of shopping at big-box stores,
spend your money with businesses that respect workers, communities,
and the environment. More than 2,000 of these businesses are listed
in Co-op America’s National Green Pages™. Paper copies of this
directory are free to Co-op America members or available for $11.95
by calling 800/58-GREEN; the online version is free to all at
STAY INFORMED: Sign up for our e-newsletter and learn about new
opportunities to raise your voice for corporate responsibility. We’ll
let you know about new online actions, including ways to support
shareholder resolutions at Wal-Mart in the spring, and other ways
you can use your dollars and your voice to create a green economy.
Visit to join the list.
Co-op America Quarterly
place File
I’m making a difference
with my money
Attorney Greg Wilson is building a daycare center;
transforming a toxic waste site into housing,
stores and jobs; and turning an entrepreneur’s dream
into a profitable new business.
Or at least his money is.
Greg has a Development Deposit at ShoreBank.
For socially responsible
CDs, Money Markets and IRAs call
1-800-669-7725 ext 4689 or visit
Member FDIC
Get your boss in on the act!
Double your gift to Co-op America.
Ask about matching gift contribution
programs available in your workplace.
The Combined Federal Campaign
makes it easy to deduct contributions
from your pre-tax income.
Designate CFC
#1011 to donate to
Co-op America.
Contact: Giving Programs Manager
1-800-58-GREEN x.5324
[email protected]
annual meeting, and shareholders must
vote on whether to adopt them.
This year, ICCR members have filed
resolutions that would require Wal-Mart
to prepare a Sustainability Report covering social as well as environmental issues,
a report on the public-health impact of
Wal-Mart stores (including costs state
and local governments pay to provide
health care for Wal-Mart employees and
their families), a comparison of the compensation packages of top executives to
those of Wal-Mart’s lowest-paid workers, and an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) report. Versions of the Sustainability Report and
EEOC resolutions appeared on last year’s
ballot and won enough votes to generate
concern among management. Unions and
other groups are filing other resolutions
related to Wal-Mart’s labor practices and
political contributions.
Schilling encourages anyone involved
with institutional pension funds or
endowments to find out whether they
own Wal-Mart stock and, if so, to urge
for votes in favor of resolutions requiring the company to adopt and implement policies that promote workplace
human rights, supply-chain compliance,
better employee wages and health benefits, and social and environmental sustainability. (More on these resolutions is
Consumers can let Wal-Mart know that
they want the company to start paying
more of the true price for its profits. Tell
Wal-Mart that you don’t want to
buy their cheap goods if it means that
ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform
Now)—718/246-7900, National nonprofit runs a
living wage campaign; consult state offices to learn about
Wal-Mart campaigns in your area or ask for assistance.
AFL-CIO— A voluntary federation of 53 national and
international labor unions building the labor movement to improve
the lives of working families. Provides research detailing
Wal-Mart’s impacts on worker health care, US jobs, and more.
As You Sow—415/391-3212, Uses shareholder
advocacy to advance corporate responsibility at Wal-Mart and
other companies.
American Independent Business Alliance—406/582-1255, Helps organizers start and sustain independent
business alliances.
Business Alliance for Local Living Economies—415/255-1108, Alliance of independently operated local
business networks dedicated to building “Local Living Economies.”
Co-op America—800/58-GREEN, Provides
this guide, online actions, and other resources related to Wal-Mart,
corporate responsibility, and the green economy. National Green
Pages™ directory lists 2,000+ responsible businesses.
Corporate Ethics International—503/478-0888, Works to inspire a “race to
the top” by the world’s largest corporations. Provides resources
for environmental, labor, and local groups working on Wal-Mart
issues or fighting new Wal-Mart development.
Good Jobs First—202/232-1616, Helps
grassroots groups and policymakers ensure that economic
development subsidies are accountable and effective. Published
“Shopping for Subsidies: How Wal-Mart Uses Taxpayer Money to
Finance its Never-Ending Growth.”
Institute for Local Self-Reliance—612/379-3815, New
Rules Project provides resources for strengthening local economies
and reining in big-box retailers. Offers Stacy Mitchell’s book The
Home Town Advantage: How to Defend Your Main Street Against
Chain Stores … And Why it Matters.
Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility—212/870-2295, Coalition of 275 faith-based institutional investors
using their investments and other resources to change unjust or harmful corporate policies, working for peace, economic justice,
and stewardship of the Earth.
Interfaith Worker Justice—773/728-8400, Network of
people of faith working to improve wages, benefits, and working
conditions, especially for low-wage workers. Offers online resources
for congregations addressing Wal-Mart.
workers in their supply chain will be
mistreated, employees will get povertylevel wages and unaffordable health
benefits, local businesses will suffer,
and the environment near their stores
and around the world will be degraded.
Use the postcard in the center of this
guide to tell Wal-Mart to clean up its
act, and then send us the “I Did It!”
postcard to tell us which actions
you’ve taken.
Groups of neighbors, workers, and
citizens across the country are letting
Wal-Mart know that they can’t keep
pushing their costs onto employees,
communities, and the environment.
We can turn Wal-Mart into a more
responsible company and build a
sustainble, just economy.
—Liz Borkowski
International Labor Rights Fund—202/347-4100,
Advocacy organization dedicated to achieving just and humane treatment
for workers worldwide. Sponsors the International Wal-Mart Worker Tour.
Jobs with Justice—202/393-1044, Fights for working people’s
standard of living, job security, and right to organize. Some local chapters
push for living wages and oppose new Wal-Marts.
Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy—213/977-9400,
Fights against working poverty. Provides resources on living-wage laws and
community benefit agreements.
Minnesota Planning—Under Construction: Tools and Techniques for
Local Planning is a guide for comprehensive planning available at
National Labor Committee—212/242-3002,
Investigates and exposes sweatshops and pressures companies
to improve working conditons.
No Dirty Gold— Works to make gold mining
companies meet basic human rights and environmental standards by
pressuring companies, including Wal-Mart, that produce or sell gold jewelry.
NOW (National Organization for Women)— 202/628-8669,
Organization of feminist activists taking action to bring about equality for all
women. Some local chapters hold demonstrations at Wal-Mart stores.
Service Employees International Union—202/898-3200, A
1.8-million-member union uniting health care, property-service, and public
workers to improve their lives and the services they provide. Its affiliated site includes a “Wal-Mart Fact Checker.”
Sierra Club—202/547-1141, National “Stop Sprawl” campaign provides information on big-box stores’ environmental impacts. Some
local chapters work on community efforts opposing new Wal-Mart stores.
Sprawl-Busters—413/772-6289, Consultants
help local community coalitions on-site design and implement successful
campaigns against megastores and other undesirable large-scale
developments. Resources include Al Norman’s Slam-Dunking Wal-Mart:
How You Can Stop Superstore Sprawl in Your Hometown.
United Food and Commercial Workers’ Union— Represents
1.4 million workers in North America, with nearly one million working in
grocery stores. Web site features”the real facts about Wal-Mart.”
Wake-Up Wal-Mart—866/253-1350, Grassroots
leaders, community groups, and activists working to change Wal-Mart. Leads
national campaigns drawing attention to Wal-Mart’s problems and organizes
local groups to participate in campaigns and fend off new Wal-Mart development.
Wal-Mart Watch— Nationwide public campaign
challenging the world’s largest retailer to become a better employer,
neighbor, and corporate citizen. Provides factual resources, and connects
and supports ongoing efforts of other groups.
Co-op America Quarterly
0 / " O X s ) L W A C O 7! -EMBER&$)#. !452!, 3 4%0 #ERTIFIED
gress Report
47,000 Attend Our 2005 Green Festivals
Co-op America’s Green Business
Conference, held just before the
Green Festival. Eric Henry, president of T.S. Designs m , recipient
of the 2004 Green Business
Leadership Award, presented the
2005 award, reciting a list of
eco-friendly qualifications that
make Habitat Suites a green
economy leader. Among other
steps, Habitat Suites maintains
its grounds by using nontoxic
fertilizers and pesticides, uses
only recycled paper products
and biodegradable cleaners, and
was a charter member of the US
Green Hotel Association.
Natalie Marquis, general
manager of Habitat Suites, accepted
the award on behalf of the hotel’s
staff, saying, “We are proud to be recognized ... It is a privilege to work with
the same team year after year and continue to learn together.”
Co-op America’s Green Business
Conference is an annual event held in
conjunction with the San Francisco
Green Festival. For three days, the leaders of the green business movement,
representing green businesses large and
small from across the country, gather for
education, inspiration, and networking.
As Clif Bar’s Christopher Swanner put it,
“The Green Business Conference is a
must-attend for any current or would-be
You can see pictures of the Green
Festival and purchase recordings of the
speakers by visiting the Green Festival
Web site at
2005 Year-End Report and
Dollar-for-Dollar Matching Fund
campaigns are creating major pressure
on two of the corporations most in
need of cleaning up their practices.
While there is so much to celebrate,
we cannot stop our powerful economic action work for one minute. That’s
why a group of especially generous
members has stepped forward to
underwrite a Membership Challenge
Fund to help fund our work together
Thanks to our members, 2005 was a year
of major victories for sustainability. As
detailed in Co-op America’s year-end
report, our many accomplishments
together in 2005 included: .
• Our Community Investing program
moved over $1 billion into underserved
communities in the US and around the
• More than 400 houses of worship,
community groups, and individuals—
200,000 all together—joined our
brand new Fair Trade Alliance,
advancing awareness of Fair Trade
across the country.
• Our Real Money newsletter brought
practical green living steps to 80,000,
and our “Living Green” syndicated column reached over 10 million people.
• Our Wal-Mart and ExxonMobil
Dawn Zurell
he 2005 Green Festival
season brought more than
47,000 people together to
advance the green economy at this
year’s pair of festivals in Washington, DC, and San Francisco, where
attendees enjoyed organic food,
visionary speakers, progressive networking, and green shopping
A joint project of Co-op America
and Global Exchange, our Green Festivals have quickly built a reputation
as the authority for helping people
understand and enjoy the benefits of Doug Dirks (left) of Ten Thousand Villages accepts
a greener lifestyle. Our 2005 festivals Co-op America’s People’s Choice Award from actress
Daryl Hannah, as biodiesel activist Charris Ford looks on.
were the largest yet.
Including more than 700 green
businesses educating the public about
“We’re honored to receive this
everything from organic food and
award and are excited that so many
fabrics to green energy sources, the
people embraced the opportunity to
Green Festivals showed off both
cast their vote in support of socially
tried-and-true sustainability practices
responsible businesses across the
and the latest in green technology. In
country,” said Ten Thousand Villages
addition, more than 200 environmenCEO Paul Myers. “We receive this
tally and socially conscious speakers
award on behalf of the artisans who,
appeared before standing-room-only
within very difficult circumstances,
crowds, including environmental guru
create the beautiful, handcrafted gifts
Lester Brown, radio host Amy Goodman,
and home décor our customers find at
and former presidential candidate
Ten Thousand Villages stores across
Congressman Dennis Kucinich.
the country. We also receive this
award on behalf of our many customers who expect us to provide gifts
created in a healthy, green manner.”
The San Francisco Green Festival
Co-op America thanks all of our
also saw the debut of Co-op America’s
members who participated by voting
first annual People’s Choice Award.
for this year’s People’s Choice Award.
Actress and environmental activist
Daryl Hannah presented the award to
the Fair Trade retailer Ten Thousand
Villages m , praising the company’s
Also in San Francisco, the green
efforts as one of the oldest and largest
hotel Habitat Suites m won the 2005
Fair Trade organizations in the world.
Green Business Leadership Award at
continued on page 28
Co-op America Quarterly
How to place a classified ad: Send your ad copy
and check to the Classified Ad Department at
Co-op America (use the address on page 1 or e-mail
[email protected] for more details).
Classified ads must be prepaid. Ads are $50 for the
first 25 words and $1 each additional word. The
deadline for classified ads for the next issue of
Co-op America Quarterly is March 30, 2005.
GROUP—Certified organic skin, body, and
health care ... unique business opportunity. Get started
TODAY! Call Erin at 541/913-6836, or e-mail
[email protected]
28 Co-op America Quarterly
in 2006. With a new extended deadline
of March 15, the challenge is straightforward. Every dollar you donate to Co-op
America before March 15 will be matched
up to $50,000. So, your gift of $25
becomes $50, your gift of $50 becomes
$100, and so on. It’s easy to donate. Just
visit our Web site at, or call 800/58GREEN.
Award Promotes Recycled Paper
At a magazine industry trade show in
New York City last November,
three magazines received recognition for
their sustainable paper-sourcing
practices through the first-ever Aveda
Environmental Award, co-created by
Aveda m and Co-op America.
“Some magazine publishers are
not just blazing a path, but are also
encouraging others to follow their
environmental lead,” said Rachael
Ostrom, media director for Aveda. “With
the severe environmental problems
associated with paper production and
use by magazines, it is important to have
an award that recognizes publishers
who are leading their industry toward
In the category of Long-time
Environmental Leader, the progressive
digest Utne m took the honors for its long
use of recycled paper, and its switch
from 20-percent post-consumer recycled
(PCR) paper to 100-percent PCR two
years ago. The lifestyle magazine Natural
Health received the award for New
Environmental Commitment for recently
reducing the size of its pages and
switching to 20-percent PCR paper, and
the Sustainable Industries Journal won the
New Launch category as a 2005 start-up
magazine using only 100-percent
PCR paper.
“Every second, one tree is logged to
produce magazine paper,” said Frank
Locantore, director of Co-op America’s
Magazine PAPER Project. “Magazine
publishers have a tremendous opportunity to foster change in their industry,
and the recipients of this award have
proven that it can be done.”
For more information about how to
encourage more magazines to make the
switch to recycled paper, visit our PAPER
Project Web site at
m designates Co-op America Business Network Member
*One that balances profitability with responsibility.
Average annual total returns for periods ended 12/31/05
One Year
Three Years
Five Years
Ten Years
Neuberger Berman Socially
Responsive Fund — Investor Class
S&P 500 Index
Neuberger Berman Socially Responsive Fund is a no-load, diversified fund which screens companies based on environmental,
community and workplace issues. An investor should consider a fund’s investment objectives, risks and fees and expenses
carefully before investing. This and other important information can be found in the fund’s prospectus, which you can obtain
by calling 800.877.9700. Please read it carefully before making an investment.
Results are shown on a “total return” basis and include reinvestment of all dividends and capital gain distributions.
Performance data quoted represent past performance, which is no guarantee of future results. The investment return and
principal value of an investment will fluctuate so that the shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their
original cost. Mid-capitalization stocks are more vulnerable to financial risks and other risks than larger stocks. They are
generally less liquid than larger stocks, so their market prices tend to be more volatile. Large-cap stocks are subject to all
the risks of stock market investing, including the risk that they may lose value. These and other risks are set forth in the
prospectus. Current performance may be lower or higher than the performance data quoted. For current to the most recent
month-end performance information, please visit
The S&P 500 Index is widely regarded as the standard for measuring large-cap U.S. stock market performance and includes a representative sample of leading companies
in leading industries. Please note that indices do not take into account any fees and expenses of the individual securities that they track, and individuals cannot
invest directly in any index. Data about the performance of this index are prepared or obtained by Neuberger Berman Management Inc. and include reinvestment
of all dividends and capital gain distributions. The Fund may invest in many securities not included in the above-described index.
©2005 Neuberger Berman Management Inc., distributor. All rights reserved. 1/06.
Quality Coffee
Starts with Farmers
At Equal Exchange, we
believe a good cup of coffee
starts with the farmers that
grow the beans. Since 1986,
we have worked directly with
small-scale coffee farmers to
ensure the highest quality
for our customers, while
guaranteeing above market
premiums for our farmer
Now that’s quality everyone
can enjoy!
To learn more about Equal Exchange, our farmer partners and how to brew
the best possible cup of coffee, visit
All Equal Exchange
products are Fair
Trade Certified™ by
TransFair USA
1612 K Street NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20006
(202)872-5307 • fax: (202)331-8166
MEMBER SERVICES. Co-op America is a membership organization
helping people to vote with their dollars for a better world. Membership
includes a subscription to the Co-op America Quarterly and the National
Green PagesTM .
MEMBERSHIPS. New and gift memberships are $20. Renewals begin at $25.
Call (202)872-5307 for credit card orders or send a check to the
Membership Department of Co-op America at the address above.
ADDRESS CHANGES. Send us a copy of your mailing label and your new
address four to six weeks before you move.
MAILING LISTS. If you don’t want us to exchange your name with other
mailers, write “do not exchange” on your mailing label and send it to us.
GROUP DISCOUNTS. Bulk subscriptions for teachers, educators and
others are available. Write or call (202)872-5307 for information.
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