business news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story yesterday about how the advocacy group Human Rights Watch has released a report detailing what it called excessively aggressive tactics by Wal-Mart Stores to stop union organization in its stores, describing the retailers actions as “legal but heavy-handed.” Not surprisingly, Wal-Mart described the report as relying on “incomplete interviews and unsubstantiated allegations.”

However, we suggested that for something new and different, it would be refreshing it Wal-Mart released a statement like the following:

Damn right we’re anti-union. They’ll raise our costs, result in us having to raise our prices, and represent the biggest potential threat to the way we do business. If people don’t want to work for us, let them go work for Kmart. Or Winn-Dixie. Or A&P.

But no. People will keep lining up to apply for jobs at Wal-Mart because they know we’re going to survive not just this decade, but into the next century. And quite frankly, if the unions don’t stop worrying about their own political power base and start being more concerned with their actual members, we think we’re going to outlive them, too.

So they can go to hell.

This prompted a number of emails…

MNB user Bob Abele wrote:

Amen. Blunt, Poignant, and Brutally Honest. But extremely true..... It's amazing how many people don't realize this.

With as many places to work in this same position-tier, if you don’t like it go work someplace else.

One MNB user wrote:

Amen, my brother!

If they want to work for a non-union company then they have that choice! If belonging to a union was so much better then non union jobs wouldn't every one run to the union. This is America and we have the right to choose and no one should be forced to join a union. Most unions can only guarantee you one thing and that is you will pay dues but may not get anything else better then you have at your current job. I agree that unions need to worry more about there current members and stop worrying about new members who can pay the union presidents more money.

Can we get another Amen?

Not quite…though another MNB user wrote:

WOW...What a positive and hard hitting response from Wal-Mart (even if the writer was KC). But you are right on again. WM needs to take a positive and accentuated response. My Grandpop used to say, You can always fight city hall, but you'll lose many battles in doing so. But remember when you drop the bomb that gets to them you will then win the war.

In the interest of full disclosure, we should point out here that we live in a union household, and we are not necessarily anti-union. Mrs. Content Guy is a teacher, and as such belongs to a union.

We have no problem with the idea that a union can assist workers in the negotiation of broad labor contracts, and help resolve conflicts. But unions ought to also take into consideration that the health of a business is important, and that it has a stake in make sure that a business is sustainable. Without a healthy business, nobody works.

This isn’t a black and white issue. And the problem in so many of these cases is that old battles are being refought, while new paradigms ought to be recognized.

Some different reactions to yesterday’s interview with Dr. William Sears, the renowned pediatrician appearing at the FMI Show next week.

One MNB user wrote:

Pediatrician and author Dr. Sears says "Product labeling needs to be overhauled to make it more honest and consumer-friendly. One of the first changes I would like to see is the term “added sugars” put on the food label. Right now the term “sugars” is misleading, since there are healthy sugars and unhealthy sugars. As a consumer, I want to know how much sugar or artificial sweetener has been added to the product."

When I see statements of that ilk the source loses a great deal of credibility. I am not aware of any science that would support the proposition that there are healthy sugars and unhealthy sugars. The body can't tell the difference between the sugar in fruit juice from the sugar in soda pop. Fruit juice may be a better nutritional choice for other reasons but the difference in the sugar is not one of them. I have many times asked nutritionists to explain to me why orange juice is any better than an orange flavored drink that is fortified with Vitamin A, C, potassium and folic acid. That always seems to stump them.

MNB user Nicole Schubert wrote:

Regarding your question to Dr. Sears about why the widely publicized obesity crisis still doesn't seem to be sinking in with most consumers, I agree with all the reasons Dr. Sears gives. But I also think a huge contributor to the obesity crisis in the US is that unhealthy food is still so much cheaper than healthy food. Your much-loathed Taco Bell is a perfect example. They have 2 big ad campaigns right now: one is for "Fourthmeal",
which encourages us to eat 4 full meals a day instead of 3, and the other is for a burrito on their value menu that weighs 1/2 a pound. The whole ad stresses how the burrito is so inexpensive and will make you gut-bustingly full. And talk about truth in advertising? Carmen Electra is their celebrity spokesperson! I am sure she eats at Taco Bell ALL the time.

I think another issue we forget is access to healthy food. I live in Portland, Oregon, which is chock full of farmers markets, chain and specialty grocers, and great restaurants. But I frequently have to travel for business to a small town in Michigan. The only "restaurants" there are a McDonald's and a Subway, and the produce at the local grocery stores is wilted and shabby. The nearest major grocery store is 40 miles away. It would kill me to live like that, but that's what people who live there are
used to - it doesn't even faze them. I think there are a lot more places like that in the US than there are like Portland!

Why do we have a feeling that the letters from the Midwest are going to show up like avalanche?

In fact, we got one that almost anticipated the criticism…

In a discussion of the relative merits of fast food, we wrote yesterday that we’d reached the conclusion that at age 52, we just can’t afford to eat that stuff anymore.

To which MNB user Joe Luehrmann responded:

If you are saying that you cannot eat a diet of fast food on a regular basis, I would agree completely.

However, if you are saying that eating at McDonalds or KFC is a lot worse than eating at some local independent fast food joint, I think that probably is not true. Personally, most of my Chicago foodie friends rail against the fast food chains and then head down to the local Italian beef and fries place and load up.

Since you are going to be in Chicago this weekend, you really ought to get out and see where Chicagoans shop (and increasingly, it is NOT Jewel and Dominick's). There are a lot of independent markets - Treasure Island, Potash Bros. and Fox and Obel are located in the city. The latter is the gourmet market and a great place for a Sunday breakfast. It is just west of the Sheraton.

If you have a vehicle, there are a lot of other markets. Moo and Oink is a Southside market that features all sorts of soul foods. Joe Caputo and Sons is a great Italian Market. Eurofresh is a great market in Palatine. Also, you have a Russian market called Garden Fresh that has bought out a number of the old Cub Stores in the North Suburbs.

The death of the Eagle Supermarket chain has brought about independents like Joseph's Marketplace in Crystal Lake and Angelo's Fresh Market in McHenry.

Woodman's, the Wisconsin based MegaMarket is open in Carpenterville and Aurora, IL

Looking for Korean? Try H-Mart in Niles. There is also Grans Market which is located in an old ... Cub Store.

Don't get me wrong, I do like Wegman's, Ukrops, and Dierburg’s. However, there are so many other options available and most of them are very interesting.

Enjoy your stay in Chicago.


What a great list.

We’ve enjoyed a number of those places, but clearly we have some work to do.

For the record, we do draw a line between fast food chains and local places that serve what might be described (inaccurately, we think) as fast food. Local joints like some of the ones you mention may not be good for one’s cholesterol level, but they almost always are good for the soul.

Besides, being Jesuit trained, we are familiar with the notion of penance. (Eat this kind of stuff and jog additional miles.)
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