The latest issue of the American Prospect features a piece reiterating charges of cruel working conditions at those Central American plants where Wal-Mart sources a good deal of its clothing. So what’s new? The source of the charges. Harold Meyerson profiles Jim Bill Lynn, who in 2002 took over the company’s internal labor monitoring program. And after being drummed out on an unrelated violation of the company’s fraternization policy, he’s not happy. According to Lynn, the company undermined his findings of actual malfeasance and sought to limit his investigatory powers after he reported back to the behemoth’s Bentonville headquarters and agitated for genuine accountability.
But more interesting than the charges, is how the article is coordinated with the upcoming release of Robert Greenwald’s (the director of Outfoxed and Uncovered) new film WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Prices. It’s the newest evidence of the growing coalition of labor, human rights, community, and environmental groups that are questioning Wal-Mart’s business model. It will be quite interesting to watch the groups at work over the coming months (and indeed years) to see what sort of concessions they may be able to win from America’s largest corporation, while still holding a diverse group of partners—with differing short term goals—together.
Taken on its own, it will surely be a big battle. But if successful, it could provide the blueprint for a bigger coalition that might be able to emerge to take bigger underlying questions about the nature of today’s corporate capitalism. In any case, it seems to have Wal-Mart quite scared; last week The New York Times explained how company has drawn a page—and staff members—from the political world, to set up its own rapid-response war room.