10/05/04 — Wal-Mart ban: California communities guilty of discrimination

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Wal-Mart ban: California communities guilty of discrimination

What is happening to Wal-Mart Stores in California should not happen in a country whose constitution guarantees that government gives equal treatment to all.

Some California residents don’t like Wal-Mart, so they have petitioned their municipal and county governments to forbid the company from building stores in their communities.

The opponents include some, like labor unions, who have political clout, and many of the governments have yielded to them.

They cite a wide variety of complaints against Wal-Mart. Among the most prominent — and most fallacious — is that the company pays low wages. Since Wal-Mart creates quite a few jobs in the stores, one wonders whether the protesters think the employees would be better off making Wal-Mart wages or none at all.

In fact, though, the company says its average pay for California workers is $10.57 per hour, which is about in line with other retailers.

The company also offers health, vision and dental insurance to its employees. Yet, many of the activists who oppose the opening of Wal-Mart stores are people who profess to be concerned about the lack of health insurance in this country.

In some communities, referenda have been held to determine where a Wal-Mart would be banned. That may sound fair at first blush, but it is not; it merely enforces the tyranny of the majority. A popular vote negates the rights of those who want the store — and of Wal-Mart itself.

The store should be treated like any other. If it meets the same local requirements as are imposed on its competitors, it should be allowed to operate.

Undoubtedly, some of Wal-Mart’s competitors are among the proponents of a ban. When they persuade a government to join them in reducing competition, consumers are the losers.

Published in Editorials on October 5, 2004 10:58 AM