Bates College student groups present pros, cons of Wal-Mart

It’s “the world’s largest family,” a retailing innovator whose low prices are good for consumers, its supporters say.

It’s an evil corporation that exploits its workers and decimates traditional downtowns, its detractors argue.

“It,” of course, is Wal-Mart, and during the next two weeks, student groups at Bates College offer presentations laying out arguments for and against the discount giant.

At 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, the Bates College Republicans offer a screening of the documentary film Why Wal-Mart Works and Why That Makes Some People Crazy in the Filene Room (Room 301), Pettigrew Hall, 305 College St.

At 4 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, the New World Coalition presents a panel discussion featuring a touring group of women who worked in sweatshops producing goods for Wal-Mart stores. The panel takes place in the Keck Classroom (G52), Pettengill Hall, 4 Andrews Road. For more information, visit the International Labor Rights Fund Web site.

Both events are open to the public at no cost.

Why Wal-Mart Works, directed by Ron Galloway, is an inside look at the world’s largest company, and how Wal-Mart’s quest for lower prices has created new efficiencies in distribution and an overall stronger marketplace. For more about the film, visit the film Web site and blog.

Some 1.3 million people work for Wal-Mart and nearly 138 million shop there every week. Consumers love a bargain, and their quest to save money has helped make Wal-Mart Stores the world’s top retailer.

“Wal-Mart opponents deny the economic reality of the situation,” noted Abbott, of New York City. “The majority of Wal-Mart’s customers go there for the low prices because they cannot afford to pay any more at another store.”

“Wal-Mart is good for consumers — that’s why it’s successful,” Abbott said.

The Feb. 7 panel is organized by the International Labor Rights Fund and is part of a campaign to hold Wal-Mart accountable for its use of sweatshop labor, says event organizer Erin Reed ’08.

The panel speakers are from the Philippines, Nicaragua and Colombia, and have worked in sweatshops that produce clothing for Wal-Mart and at flower plantations owned by Dole, which sells nearly all its flowers at Wal-Mart.

“When the New World Coalition showed the documentary Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price this fall, hundreds of people became aware of how powerful Wal-Mart is,” says Reed, of Pembroke, Mass. “This panel will give a face and a voice to the people who have suffered as a result.”

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