Wal-Mart and fair trade

Once again, I am affronted by anti-Wal-Mart/retail sentiment. This time it is in the coverage of the Wellstone rally in Duluth, “Trade rally draws mixed crowd in Duluth” (Oct. 7). The Wellstoners target Wal-Mart because it sells imported products, does not pay a living wage and pushes out mom-and-pop proprietors. What they are really targeting is American values. I wonder how many people drove up to that rally in foreign-built cars, talking on foreign-built cell phones. If these people took the time to research their purchases, they would find much of it is built in undeveloped countries under poor conditions. It is not a Wal-Mart problem; it is a problem in those countries.

As a Wal-Mart associate, I can also say that the company has a very American, merit-based method of evaluating and paying its employees. Like all entry level, unskilled jobs, the starting pay for a Wal-Mart associate is not much higher than minimum wage. But if you prove yourself, you get promoted very easily. In fact, most of the upper-level management came into the company as stockpersons or department managers. I worked there for less than two years when they offered me a salaried management position. I chose to continue my education instead. The people who whine about wages are not willing to put in the time and hard work. They must want those union-style, mandatory wages that do not consider your merit.

Wal-Mart started out as a small, local store in the 1960s. Sam Walton grew that company using the American values of hard work and innovation. Last time I checked, that’s the American Dream. If these small businesses cannot find a way to compete with Wal-Mart, they do not deserve to be in business. This problem should be solved in the capitalist way, in which the smaller stores rise to the challenge by applying business principles, not in the socialist way of government intervention.

Paul Peterson, senior, College of Liberal Arts