Thanks to Huffington Post.com
Four weeks ago, I figured out something that took Bruce Springsteen months to conclude: it’s a mistake to do business with Wal-Mart.
This week, Springsteen had to do a little “shuffle” of his own to explain his strange consort with the company that puts profits ahead of people.
In this space (Dec. 28th ITunes, Wal-Mart, Springsteen Killing Off the Independents) I wrote: “The Boss has signed on with the Retail Boss, much to the chagrin of his many fans, who saw Springsteen as the voice of the disenfranchised. Now he’s just another Walton commodity. Born in the U.S.A. meets China-Mart.”
It is jarring to see the Greatest Anti-Union Corporation promoting Springsteen’s Greatest Hits CD as a “Wal-Mart exclusive” (for $10–you save $2.98). Now Springsteen is apologizing to his fans for having “dropped the ball on it.” But until he “drops the money” from this deal, Springsteen’s regret doesn’t go far enough.
“It was a mistake,” Springsteen told the New York Times. “Our batting average is usually very good, but we missed that one. Fans will call you on that stuff, as it should be.” In response, Wal-Mart went right to the heart of the problem, anticipating the backlash Springsteen would cause: “We are proud of the good jobs, benefits and career opportunities we provide to more than 1.4 million U.S. associates who choose to work at Wal-Mart and serve our customers every day.”
If Springsteen didn’t get it—Wal-Mart certainly did. This is fundamentally a worker’s rights controversy, and the pop rocker walked smack into it. Wal-Mart, which conducts surveillance over its ‘associates’ to weed out any union ‘salts’ that might be working in its ranks, has become the emblem of the union-bashing employer in America. Wal-Mart assiduously trains its managers on how to spot, and eliminate potential union sympathizers on its sales floors. This is the company that tried to deny it was coaching its employees to vote against Barack Obama. This is the company that together with the Retail Industry Leaders Association will spend millions this year to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act in Congress, which would expand the choices of workers to organize into a union.
Some of the money to fuel that anti-union effort will come from the sale of Springsteen’s CD at 3,500 Wal-Mart stores across America. When someone makes a “mistake” with Wal-Mart, by definition it’s a big mistake.
But the Boss still has a chance to redeem himself. Tomorrow, during half-time at the Super Bowl, Springsteen could score a touchdown of his own by announcing that he is donating the profits from all sales of Greatest Hits at Wal-Mart, to support groups working for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.
Then he can launch into an ‘exclusive’ version of one of the trademark songs on his Wal-Mart album, retitled: “Made in the U.S.A.”
Al Norman is the founder of Sprawl-Busters, and has been helping communities fight big box stores for the past 15 years. His website is http://www.sprawl-busters.com