The AFL-CIO has a new report
out specifically about how Wal-Mart has encouraged firms in Ohio to move overseas. Frankly, I'm glad there are people in the AFL-CIO still working on Wal-Mart (as both the SEIU and UFCW have joined the new Change to Win Coalition). It's good, and obviously the choice of Ohio is no coincidence.
As longtime readers know, what I like to do in this situation is to share parts of the report that were new to me, and encourage you to read the rest yourself. Here's the Mr. Coffee story (footnotes omitted):
In 1985, Mr. Coffee began exploring production in China after Wal-Mart demanded a $1 reduction in the wholesale price of a brisk-selling four-cup coffeemaker. Jeff Blackwell, a former senior vice president of Mr. Coffee, scouted Chinese factories and arranged the deals. He said Wal-Mart encouraged offshore production even as it promoted a "Buy American" campaign.
This was just the beginning of the exporting of Mr. Coffee manufacturing jobs overseas. By 1997, 40 percent of Mr. Coffee coffeemakers were produced in China. In 2000, two years after purchasing Mr. Coffee, Sunbeam Corp. eliminated 339 jobs by shutting Mr. Coffee's Glenwillow, Ohio, factory and shifting production to other plants it owned in Mexico and Mississippi.
In 2003, Sunbeam closed its Mississippi and Mexico plants and moved its production to China. In Glenwillow, Ohio, workers averaged $8 to $10 per hour. Workers in Mexico who made Mr. Coffee products were paid between $5.93 to $7.78 per day-not a living wage for Mexican families. In China, workers make between 25 and 41 cents an hour, and there are several instances of working conditions that violate human and worker rights....
Today, there are 15 Wal-Mart stores within a 25-mile radius of Glenwillow.
As Blackwell, who no longer works for Mr. Coffee, explains:
Wal-Mart has created the push for lower prices at all cost.
The authors also cite Professor Gary Gereffi of Duke University (from Frontline's "Is Wal-Mart Good for America?"), but I want to use a different quote. I think it's very important that Gereffi doesn't blame the Chinese for our economic problems. He doesn't argue that outsourcing is somehow inevitable. He puts the onus squarely on Wal-Mart, and he explains why:
[Q]So are you saying retailers like Wal-Mart are deciding where things are going to be produced; that it's Wal-Mart deciding it's going to be done in China, rather than India or Bangladesh?
Right. Retailers like Wal-Mart are deciding where production should take place around the world and how production should shift from one country to another. ...
[Q]So where does Wal-Mart get this clout?
Wal-Mart gets its economic power because it is a gateway to the U.S. consumer. Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the United States. It's the largest employer in the United States. The demand for Wal-Mart stores is what provides China and other countries in Asia with their access to the most powerful capitalist economy in the world. So Wal-Mart is providing a gateway into the American economy for overseas suppliers in China and elsewhere, and it's doing it on a scale that is unprecedented. No company has had the kind of economic power that Wal-Mart does, to be able to source products from around the world. ... Wal-Mart is able to transfer whole U.S. industries to overseas economies.
Just one note to you AFL-CIO folks: Don't you think you should have produced this last year when it might have made a difference?