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Omaha Steve Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-10-08 07:42 PM
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New Canadian Film: "Wal-Mart World's Most Hated Company"

Posted April 9, 2008 | 06:56 AM (EST)

Since 1994, when Wal-Mart swallowed 122 Woolco stores, the Canadians have greeted Wal-Mart with a Big Chill. Today the giant retailer controls 305 stores in Canada, and is in the early stages of a superstore rollout across the provinces. But Wal-Mart's history north of the border has been marked by bitter union battles, and increasingly fractious encounters with local residents. It was in Canada, after all, where Wal-Mart shut down a newly-minted store -- rather than see it unionized.

In the middle of his new film, Wal-Mart Nation, Toronto-based Andrew Munger quotes a member of an Arkansas group called "Against the Wal" saying, "We'd all be a lot better off if Wal-Mart was less greedy." That pretty much epitomizes Munger's film, which has been shown thus far only to Canadian audiences -- but opens this coming week in a couple of American film festivals. Munger borrows a few iconic American symbols -- like Miss America, and Presidential candidate John Edwards -- to reveal the underside of Wal-Mart Canada.

Munger spent several years compiling this documentary, filming in 3 Ontario communities, 7 U.S. cities and towns, and 3 countries. "There's never been a company like Wal-Mart," Munger explains in the opening narration. "It's the world's most hated company." Munger's camera travels throughout America and Canada to profile what he calls "the growing army of activists" that comes "from the deep south to the chilly north." Munger says he wanted to find out, "Who are these people, and why were they so obsessed with a big box store?" He also wanted to answer the primary question, "If Wal-Mart is so bad, why do so many people shop there?"

That question is answered in the film by Diana Reid, the owner of Clubhouse Donuts, a small bakery in the town of Guelph, Ontario. She tells Munger that when she heard Wal-Mart was coming, "We were all thrilled -- until all this opposition came. All of us are in a familiar position where we have to be very careful with our money." But her comments stand in contrast to the Wal-Mart worker in the Wake Up Wal-Mart TV spot shown in the film, who is told that it would take her 1,000 years to earn as much as Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott makes in a year. "A thousand years?" repeats the astonished Wal-Mart employee, Charmaine Givens. "I'm getting upset."

Among the anti-Wal-Mart army regulars tracked by Munger are: Anna Liu, a young labor organizer for a Canadian local of the United Food and Commercial Workers, who conducts undercover leafleting of Wal-Mart stores; Carolyn Sapp, the 1992 Miss America winner, who speaks nationally for the rights of women workers at Wal-Mart; Ben Bennett, the Guelph, Ontario resident who fended off Wal-Mart for a decade, before losing the end game; Chris Kofinis, Communications Director of Wake Up Wal-Mart, the multi-million campaign funded by the United Food and Commercial Workers union; and Al Norman, founder of Sprawl-Busters.

Wal-Mart Nation opens at the Fayetteville, Arkansas Annual Shareholders' meeting, with thousands of chanting employees and investors. Munger interviews Arkansas residents about the huge retailer, asking one woman in a soccer Mom t-shirt, how she feels about all the controversy surrounding Wal-Mart. "I wasn't aware there was," she says flatly. The narrator adds: "Wal-Mart's best allies are its customers: average folks in search of a bargain."

FULL story at link.

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