Al Norman calls his special interest group “Sprawl-Busters.” He ought to call them “Job Busters.”
The town square in Bentonville, Arkansas was filled with an estimated 2,000 people wearing yellow rain slickers that said “Wal-Mart — Not in My Neighborhood.” I was invited to speak at the anti-Wal-Mart rally sponsored by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. I flew from Western Massachusetts to St. Louis, and joined a caravan of silver buses that threaded their way south into the Ozarks.
The year was not 2013. It was December of 1998 — 15 years ago.
The anti-big box movement was barely five years old at that time. I had stopped my first Wal-Mart in Greenfield, Massachusetts in 1993. That well-publicized victory had sparked other communities to take on the Bully from Bentonville.
In 1998, people from as far away as Hawaii, Washington State and California converged on the tiny town where the Wal-Mart myth began. The “Walton 5 & 10” store was closed to avoid any conflict with the event participants, who chanted: “Who’s a bad neighbor? Wal-Mart!”
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney addressed the rally, calling upon all AFL-CIO credit unions to discontinue distribution of Sam’s Club discount cards, and urged all union health care plans to stop using Wal-Mart pharmacies. “Here’s our message,” Sweeney said. “Keep out of our neighborhoods. We don’t want you ruining our lives with your income-destroying stores.”
Funny that a union guy would say that. Aren’t the unions trying to force Americans to join unions through card check? Aren’t the unions working with Big Government to force employers to accept unionization through so-called “micro unions?”
Why yes, they are. Al Norman is in the pocket of Big Labor, and he’s pleased as punch to stay there.
The whole piece is funny and sad. Bittersweet, I guess. Mr. Sprawl Busters brags about bugging Walmart for two decades without accomplishing much of anything. Walmarts have continued sprouting up anywhere more than a handful of shoppers can be found. Walmarts are actually physically bigger now than when Norman started crusading against them. They’re still non-union. They still tend to have the best prices around on most items. They still employ thousands and thousands of people. Whenever they open a new store anywhere, hundreds flock to the place to apply for jobs. It may shock Mr. Norman to hear this, but Walmarts are even cropping up overseas in places like Tokyo. Walmart is majority owner of Japan’s largest retailer, Seiyu, and has been for years.
At the end, Job Buster uses a poignant passage from the late Sam Walton’s autobiography against him.
Shortly before he died, Sam Walton wondered in his 1992 autobiography: “Am I really leaving behind something on this earth that I can be proud of having accomplished, or does it somehow lack meaning to me now that I’m facing the ultimate challenge?”
What Walton was getting at there was that in the end, it’s not what you’ve built or how much money and things you you have, it’s Who you know that matters. That invaluable life lesson is utterly lost on someone like Al Norman, who believes his legacy will be defined in what he has devoted his life to stop, and failed.