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Wal-Mart Redux 

Editor:

Thanks NCJ for staying on top of things that deserve examination. You will get a flood of letters regarding the sneaky incursion of Wal-Mart ("Touchdown Wal-Mart," Dec. 15) into our community.  Why "sneaky?"  While there are people who long to flock to this economic mecca, a majority (61 percent in 1999) has deep reservations.

Of course W-M can offer figures that show what an asset it is to the community, but we need to look at the actual impact. Studies show that a W-M generally garners around 70 percent of related sales. The obvious result is a 70 percent loss for other businesses, with a commensurate need to lay off employees. But the impacts do not stop there. Disposable income does not magically increase because of the entrance of a seductive alternative. A few fleeing dollars might be retained, but there is only so much money to be spent. If our community spends $30 million a year on the relevant merchandise, and this can be processed by 1,000 employees, W-M can handle the 70 percent that will accrue to it with 250 employees, resulting in a net loss of 500 jobs -- and the crucial loss of circulated money. Regardless of how imprecise these figures are, is this a prospect that appeals to anyone?

In addition to the stunning loss in wages is the devastating loss in benefits.  Not all employees have benefits, but no W-M employee has any. And this is one of the most disgusting things about W-M. One billion of the many billions in profit this company makes could be used for medical coverage for every single employee. Instead, the company runs classes on how employees can get benefits such as food stamps to supplement their meager incomes.
Americans are insanely tolerant of the predations of the corporate world. But W-M is not just the largest retailer in the world, it is the most venal. So, the cautions this company exercised in sneaking into our county are realistically observed. The 61 percent vote in 1999 showed that we are alert and resistant to gross predation.  W-M is the most heartless company since the days of the textile barons.

Larry Hourany, McKinleyville

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