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Wal-mart: Evil Empire or Hope for Unemployment

I don’t trust big business.  I don’t trust any type of organization that would make profit a priority over people. I don’t trust Wal-mart. But…is a bad job better than no job? This is the question I posed to a group of students today when discussing whether Wal-Mart should be allowed to enter into the city of Chicago.

Every issue I learn about reminds me how important it is to see the world with a nuanced lens. While initially I would argue HELL NO, Wal-Mart only destroys communities and hinders small businesses; I now understand that it is more complicated than just another big business out to make a bottom line profit.

In my junior year of high school I performed a poem at a Wal-Mart protest and was escorted off the premises by police officers. I was obviously and unapologetically against a business that would not allow their employees to organize. However, in Chicago when people are still desperate for jobs that will allow them to put food on the table for their families, bringing Wal-mart to the Labor Union city of Chicago gets as serious as who will be elected to city council or who will find employment in neighborhoods that have been in the shadow of flourishing big businesses that seem to have the mayor’s undivided attention. In the last city council election in Chicago 10 seats were decided over this issue.

When some people yell from the sidelines that Wal-mart will close down all the small business owners in a particular neighborhood in Chicago, others fire back explaining there are no businesses there to begin with. It is clear that it is not as simple as Wal-mart going into a rural area and monopolizing the market. Others argue that their inner city neighborhoods have become food deserts that no longer offer fresh produce and suggestions are made that Wal-mart can fill the health void in communities that have few other options.

So I know now, it is not a one sided argument. And at the end of the day, I have changed my mind from when I was an outside agitator, adamantly opposing Wal-mart. Now I say, bring Wal-mart to Chicago, bring jobs to a south side neighborhood, help stop food deserts, but do all this at a cost. Pressure Wal-mart to raise their minimum wage for employees, don’t allow them to come into yet another city and destroy it with their capitalistic bottom line tactics. And we as a society must stop allowing businesses to make profit a priority over us and the lives we live.

The Wal-mart Foundation has given more money to HBCUs than any other large business in the country. This is an example of the good that Wal-mart and other historically controversial businesses are capable of. But potential good is not enough. We must hold big business accountable. Even when they start foundations and start to give money to good causes, I personally remain cautious about big business. One thing we must remember is that the supply does not dictate the demand. With the money we spend we must also begin to demand more from these companies, both on a national and global level.