By Jubal Wilson Guntherson
Last updated: 12:22 PM
Thursday, January 18, 2007
On Thursday the small town of Chelan is expected to issue a restraining order against the largest corporation in the world. At stake is a huge new store, which now occupies an area in square feet over three times as large as originally projected. In addition the new store, which is initially expected to employ over 200 people could be effectively put out of business entirely should a judge rule against it in the landmark case.
Opponents to the new Wal-Mart cite wage and management concerns as the chief reasons for their opposition to the new store. These opponents claim that Wal-Mart business practices stifle wages and wage increases, promote cheap products for the consumer which overwhelm the local competition, intend to force Chelan unwillingly into the 21st century, and will employ far too many Hispanics and Yankee transplants from Eastern Seaboard areas of the Northern US Blue-States.
Proponents of the store say that Wal-Mart will employ a large number of people at higher wages than most local employers, will provide a far wider range of goods and services to the local economy than competitors can, and most importantly for all involved do not require the hired workers to read, speak English, or bathe on a regular basis.
“We don’t want that damned Wal-Mart around here, or those damned people either,” said William Snodmeister, a seventy six year old, sixteenth generation immigrant from Bavaria. “If I wanted to live around a bunch of gol-blasted Mexicans and a whole bunch of other cursing, pissed-off, shallow, damned Yankees I’d move to Florida like everybody else!”
“Besides, at my age if a man wants to walk outside on a cold morning in January and take a whiz on his Billy-goat or prize-heifer just for the fun of it, then by gumption, I oughtta be able to do that without some convoy of corporate multinational rubbernecking truckers hauling Wal-Mart crapola double-eyeballing what nature gave me or honking all over my God-given rights. And besides, like the people at the ACLU told me, they don’t pay enough and somehow or another it will interfere with my Medicaid Prescription plan that the Democrats got me. I’m not sure how all of that works ‘zactly,” concluded Mr. Snodmeister, “But if my local union man tells me it’s true then you can bet your last fat grandchild it must be true. My union man even taught me how to vote with a machine. I hadn’t even seen or knowed about any such a thing as a voting machine ‘til he told me how it worked and how many times I could use it on the same day. Worked just like he said too. I was plum amazed.”
Proponents of the new store however have a very different perspective. “We employ both of the local illegal immigrants, who if they weren’t mopping floors at Wal-Mart would be shoveling out the stables at the local dairy farm or sweeping up the floor at Harpoons, the local diner and shoe-shine shop. In addition we pay our illegals enough that they don’t have to go on welfare, can often even afford to go off food stamps, and we don’t make them speak English or any other recognizable language,” said Marticia Martin, the store spokeswoman, who is better known in the local community as Marty-Mart. “In addition we provide very cheap consumer goods at reasonable prices to the local shopper while maintaining the very highest standards of customer service. You don’t get better customer service than you do at your local Wal-Mart, it’s just not physically possible.”
“And finally,” continued Marty-Mart, “our wage and benefit packages exceed comparable packages offered by most multinational corporations operating in Guatemala, Cambodia, Egypt, and Mexico, and of course we pay double the standard wage rate of companies in France though we also work four times as many hours. But then again, who doesn’t?”
“Now we were recently surpassed on our wage and benefit packages by most Vietnamese companies, but we’re working to address those problems right now by opening seventeen new Wal-Marts in Hanoi alone.”
The legal, political, and social ramifications of this case could be potentially wide-ranging. Said Chelan County Superior Court Judge Lesley A. Allan, “I don’t know how people in Wally-Land handle this kinda thing, but round here, pretty much as far as I can tell, we enforce the zoning laws over far less important things like ‘economic laws.’”
Judge Allan continued, “See, round here we believe in the free market. And if you can’t zone that right then it isn’t really free, meaning nobody ought to be able to have it. Freedom means free for everybody, or nobody, and that’s the way America works. Besides a lot of people who own second homes around here were concerned about their freedom to live primitively in primitive surroundings. We don’t want a Wal-Mart here when the whole purpose of owning our second home here is to escape the burden of wealth that a Wal-Mart would potentially bring to this entire area. Besides, they started out with a 50,000-foot floor plan and now it’s 162,000 square feet? That’s triple the amount of goods for sale! Why that kind of thing will just drive visitors and shoppers from all over the area here. Pretty soon there will be all kind of support businesses, newcomers, and what not. Money and commerce will start flowing in practically unrestricted and then where can rich people go to escape that? No, some freedoms are worth maintaining, and a free market means that you have to draw the line somewhere against, well… free markets. Did that come out right? Cause it just sounds kinda funny to me when I hear it outside my head.”
“Well, anyhow, I’m issuing this restraining order against Wal-Mart so that they may not engage in free commerce anywhere in or around Chelan. This case could potentially move all the way up to the tri-county circuit with all of the really important socio-economic and incredibly difficult zoning problems it encompasses. But if that happens, then so be it, by Gawd! This is America and I’m not about to let something like Wal-Mart turn Washington State into some kind of European socialist greenie-headed stronghold”
The larger implications are complicated indeed. With all of the acrimonious debate on the subject the town of Chelan may soon fall under the dark shadow of revenge midnight cow-tippings and illegal possum grab and snatching. In this modern game of economic bait and switch neighbor could turn against part-time resident second-home neighbor. If that happens then Wal-Mart, President Bush, and the War in Iraq may yet again tear at the very fragile fabric of civil American culture. Only time and true social justice will tell.
© JWG, Jr. 2007