Opinion

Women of Wal-Mart fight discrimination

by Jim Hightower

Get ready for another touchie-feelie Wal-Mart ad to saturate the airwaves soon.
Whenever this retailing behemoth gets caught in one of its many abusive practices, it races to cover-up the damage with a PR blitz. This time, though, Wal-Marts image has not merely hit a pothole on the road of greed, but a sinkhole and its going to take more than ads for them to get out of it.
A federal appeals court has ruled that a sex-discrimination suit, filed back in 2001 by six women, is entitled to class-action status, bringing some two million more former and current employees into the case. So Wal-Mart, the nations largest employer, now has the distinction of facing the largest sex-discrimination suit in U.S. history. As the court put it: Expert opinions, factual evidence, statistical evidence and anecdotal evidence present significant proof of a corporate policy of discrimination [against] female employees nationwide. The facts are damning. For example, 65 percent of Wal-Marts employees are women, but only 16 percent of its store managers are.
Bizarrely, the corporation tried to lay the blame for holding back women on individual store managers, claiming that Wal-Mart did not operate as a centralized unit.
Now, thats a scream, since this giant constantly brags that its central computers keep track of every penny that comes in and goes out of its global empire, as well as tracking the performance of every employee. Workers cant take a pee without headquarters knowing how long it took.
Of course, rather than do right by the women it has routinely wronged, Wal-Mart will continue to unleash its bevy of lawyers to drag out the case, hoping women will be discouraged and quit. But I dont think these ladies are quitters. Its already been six years and justice is drawing closer.
To keep informed, go to www.walmartwatch.com.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Thieves In High Places: Theyve Stolen Our Country And Its Time To Take It Back, on sale now from Viking Press.

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