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We’ve gotten lots of emails about Wal-Mart’s legal troubles related to cleaning companies that it engaged that were using illegal aliens, and the government’s attempts to prove that Wal-Mart knew about the scheme; the speculation this week is that Wal-Mart may settle the case for $10 million while continuing to deny guilt.

Among them, MNB user Tony Pines wrote:

First of all, I have no doubt that illegals were being employed by contractors to clean Wal-Mart stores across the country. We’re talking about 3,000-plus Wal-Mart stores and over 530 Sam’s Clubs; micromanagement does not work on this scale. My question is, why is Wal-Mart receiving all the blame? What about the contractors that actually employ these people. Sure, it is Wal-Mart’s fiduciary duty to do all it can to ensure this type of practice does not take place. The ultimate responsibility, however, lies in the lap of those contractors that employ such practices. So why is Wal-Mart being asked to pay $10M? Tell these contractors to pay $10M each and see how fast they go out of business. This just might solve your problem. You can’t employ illegals if you aren’t in business anymore.

Secondly, I am absolutely disgusted that these same illegals “have filed a suit against Wal-Mart, charging it with profiting from the exploitation.” Are you kidding me? Where do they get the right to sue anyone, especially Wal-Mart? Sue your employer. Wal-Mart didn’t pay you cash under the table; your employer did that. Besides, in case you have forgotten, you are in this country illegally. Where is your leg to stand on? You shouldn’t even have the right to file a lawsuit in this country. This is the ‘beautiful’ thing about our justice system. My solution? Deport these illegals (and keep on deporting them as they come back), shut down these contractors who are the actual guilty parties, and give these jobs to those who are here legally and need them.

Actually, never mind. I am off to the courthouse to file suit against Wal-Mart because I don’t like to pay a markup on their Banana Boat Aloe Vera Gel. At least I am a citizen. The sad part about this is that I could probably get away with it.

It is our impression that the cleaning contractors are not getting off scott-free, but rather that Wal-Mart is being probed for allegedly knowing about and therefore enabling the practice. That seems like a legitimate inquiry to us, with the case resting on what Wal-Mart executives knew and when did they know it.

Part of the issue that needs to be decided, it seems to us, is whether Wal-Mart creates a culture in which these kinds of infractions are almost necessary if you’re going to meet its terms for doing business with the company. We’re not sure that is a case for the courtroom, but it certainly is something that needs to be examined in the court of public opinion.

And by the way, we think that one of the beautiful things about our justice system is that it is supposed to protect everybody…even people who are not here legally. That’s a much more dicey proposition these days than it was three or four years ago, but that’s supposed to be what makes us different from everybody else.

Another MNB user wrote:

Why should Wal-Mart be at fault. How can they possibly audit every single little company they work with so see if they hired illegal aliens? I think of all the stores I shop at in the Hispanic areas. They are filled with illegal aliens. Am I at fault for shopping at those stores? What about the landscaping firms all over the country who rely on illegal aliens to mow the grass? Are the homeowners at fault? Or the farmers who rely on them to pick the crops? Face it, there is a massive labor shortage in this country and we desperately need illegal aliens to do the work. And no one is being exploited. The aliens were exploited in their home country, not here.

And MNB user Tim Yount wrote:

I don't want to necessarily be accused of "piling on", but I just saw a Wal-Mart institutional ad that was aimed at improving their image. Basically, it was a quick story of one of their associates helping a family caught in a flaming car on the roadside. He saved them. The close of the commercial was the Wal-Mart associate saying that: "Wal-Mart teaches us to do the right thing." Come on! Now they want us to believe that Wal-Mart is the repository for building/teaching character? I'm glad I'm not a parent of this guy. What a slap in the face that would be…

We reported yesterday about a possible ordinance in Los Angeles that would require Wal-Mart and other large retailers to pay for a detailed economic analysis every time they want to open a store in one of the city’s neighborhoods. These analyses would be designed to show if the proposed big box store would eliminate jobs, harm existing local business or depress wages.

MNB user Andy Casey wrote:

You know I have never been a fan of ordinances aimed specifically at Wal-Mart (or any other competitor for that matter) but this rule strikes me as making perfect sense. If WM truly believes their stores' net effect on areas is positive, this "put up or shut up" approach would seem to be something they could embrace as it gives them an opportunity to have their side of the story told as prominently as their opponents.

Of course, the issue will be methodology and what economic factors are included in the study. But by accepting this concept, WM will have the chance to shape some of the discussion so it includes not only the negative factors of their entry but the positive as well. Seems to me, deciding what is relevant and trying to quantify the overall impact is a good way to bring some light rather than just heat to the whole discussion.

The problem with light being shed on the discussion is that everyone wants the light to be cast through the prism of their own biases and priorities.

Another MNB user wrote:

Most people are making an assumption that a job at Wal-Mart (or Target or some other retailer) that pays low wages and provides only 30 hours a week is someone’s sole support. As a former retailer, I know it is usually not the case; it is usually a second job or a “supplemental” (kids in college for example) and not the primary income source for that person. Any person who looks to a 30 hour a week, $10 an hour job as their sole source of income needs to open their horizons. There are plenty of other jobs for which to apply (for example, a full time job at the current retailer or another one).

As for the health insurance issue, it is a similar situation. Almost all the old folks working in retail I know are covered by Medicare – they are not without health insurance. Do not assume that a person does not have health insurance because the employer does not provide it. A lot of the young people working part time in retail are covered by their parents plan as well. That goes for spouses of those with full time jobs also.

The only way to determine the real impact is to survey a large portion of the workforce being studied to assess what their individual situation is. Every time we did that we found that part timers did not view their current job as their primary source of income and that over two thirds had health coverage through another means. You cannot determine reality with gross statistical data!

We would take issue with a couple of your comments.

First of all, while you are right that many people who work part-time retail aren’t using it as their sole support, it isn’t necessarily because they haven’t tried to open their horizons. For some people, working retail is the best and/or only option. We think it is dangerous to assume that all retail jobs should be part-time and supplemental in nature.

We grew up working in retail, and yes, we were going to school at the time. We worked to pay our way through prep school and college, and didn’t have to worry about health insurance because we were still a student and covered by our parents’ policies. But in every store where we worked, there were men in their thirties and forties for whom retail was their career – it was an honorable way to make a living, they supported their families, and they worked hard. And we’ll tell you something else – we learned from all of them. There is something ugly about the way working in retail has somehow become synonymous with menial labor…being a shopkeeper used to be a perfectly acceptable full-time profession.

And by the way, we think the assumption is faulty that if you don’t like working for one retailer, there’s always another place to get a job. That’s not always true.

By the way, we noted yesterday that Wal-Mart could respond to the ordinance by suing, or by pushing for a referendum on the issue – and we referred to California as “the poster child for government by referendum (also known in some quarters as democracy run amok).”

One MNB user took us to task for this description:

I do not think it is appropriate the way you have identified California in this report!

Hell, we thought we were being kind. We could have quoted Ross MacDonald, who once wrote, “Nothing is wrong with California that a rise in the ocean level wouldn't cure.”

Plenty of reaction to yesterday’s story about the annual convention being held by the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA), which is looking to raise social consciousness about the obesity issue and reinforce the notion that being overweight is not the same as being sick. (The convention is being held in San Francisco, California, but we’ll resist the temptation to make any more California jokes…)

One MNB user wrote:

Is George Carlin ghostwriting for MNB? Isn't "Fat Activist" an oxymoron? These people are fat simply because they are not ACTIVE and because they eat way too much! If they were active, consumed fewer calories than they burned, and ate healthy whole foods instead of so much junk then they would be thin. Despite all their claims of self-acceptance you can bet every one of them would give up their spare tire and cellulite if there were a way to do it without diet and exercise.

What this country needs is some real "Thin Activists" that have the guts to tell their fat friends and loved ones that they have to do something to reduce their weight. Call it like you see it. If your loved one was an alcoholic would you buy them a drink, or brag about your heavy-drinking uncle that lived to be 90? Probably not. But you'll watch in admiration as your overweight spouse power-slams a bucket of KFC and a pint of Haagen-Dazs. IMHO, accepting obesity goes beyond the level of political correctness and into the realm of cruelty. Obesity is the unhealthy result of a self-destructive series of personal choices combined with poor personal discipline, not some communicable disease one gets from food marketers.

Not to be harsh here, but we think this email may illustrate why those overweight folks think they need a lobbying group and convention.

Another MNB user wrote:

Full disclaimer -- I long ago came to grips with the fact that I am just not designed to be tall and slender -- I'm short and prefer the word "Rubenesque".

We DO as a society need to accept that we come in all shapes and sizes -- some are tall and slender, some are short and Rubenesque -- and that's okay; it's the way it's supposed to be. Neither are wrong or (should be) unfashionable, it's just two different bodies with two different shapes. It's as repulsive to see a photo of a starlet whose bones jut out of her undernourished body as it is to see rolls and rolls of flesh.

Regardless of our shape, we all need to eat balanced diets, exercise, and *find a weight that works for our body* -- whatever that weight might be.

Having said this, however, we cannot ignore the medical facts -- obesity is inextricably linked to a long and varied list of health issues that are expensive and difficult to treat, and easy and inexpensive to try to prevent. And we cannot ignore that we as a nation are the fattest, most out of shape population on the face of the earth.

Unfortunately the NAAFA tends to do what many organizations of its ilk do (see PETA, Greenpeace, etc.) -- take a logical thought and develop it to an extreme.

It's terrific to promote the idea that we can't all be tall and skinny --that's a healthy concept. It's fantastic to promote the idea that we have to live with (and take care of, with diet and exercise) what we've been given. It's even good to push the idea that someone shouldn't be discriminated against just because of their shape. But please don't tell me it's okay to be morbidly obese, munching on Cheetos and being a couch potato -- 'cause I won't be listening, any more than I listen to the smokers who tell me that their long term suicide plan is okay.

Yet another MNB user, tongue firmly in cheek, wrote:

When is Michael Moore going to take on the Wal-Mart phenomena? After all, isn't it fast becoming the darling of anti-capitalists? Why haven't folks been yelling and screaming about McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, Convenience Stores or any other employer that pays just above the minimum wage and focuses on part time. Let me see, I cut school, don't have a career plan, think college is stupid and now all I can do is work for $9.00 an hour so it must be someone else's fault. Maybe they can come up with a disease for this, after all we are now justifying that being lazy and eating the wrong foods is not our fault. Obesity is caused by big corporations, I know because I saw it on daytime TV when I got home from the fast food place. Stop your crying and look in the mirror.

Michael Moore may have some new credibility problems if he wants to take on the obesity issue. After all, in his case “9-11” isn’t just part of the title of his current movie…”911” also would appear to be his weight.

Okay, that was a little unkind…sorry.

And MNB user Patti Williams chimed in:

I've never done this before, but I feel the need to express my viewpoint on this issue if for no other reason than to just write it down as an outlet to vent. It's probably going to be too long to print. I just don't believe that giving the obesity problem an identity by calling it a "disease" is going to help the problem, remove the denial or lessen the sensitivity. The obese are not sick - our society is. Yes, this is a serious health issue but it is not a disease in the medical sense, or else it would be a problem globally and not just here in the U.S. The U.S. is the fattest country in the world. The U.S. ranks #37 in overall health yet we spend more money than any other country on healthcare. What is wrong with this picture?

Obesity is a disease of our society and a result of our lifestyle, and until we get a handle on, get back to basics and educate our citizens about personal responsibility, proper nutrition and lifestyle changes that are necessary to achieve optimum health, it doesn't matter what name you want to give it – it will continue to become a bigger and bigger problem. No pun intended.

Yes, obesity is a health problem - and yes it is costing billions of dollars, but it doesn't have to. As a nation, we are simply taking the wrong approach.

And to think no one is benefiting from all this hype would obviously be naive. No one cares about getting to the very simple root cause of the problem – if they did, we would be doing more to educate our citizens and not trying to label the problem. Mark my words, the drug companies are jumping for joy - their lobbying has paid off - and they are the ones driving all this hype - no one can convince me otherwise. Just think of how many drugs will now be accessible to more people now that the insurance companies will be forced to pay for them as prescriptions to cure obesity. If we really want to fix this problem, rather than benefit financially from it, then parents and teachers alike need to start teaching our children about health basics. The food manufacturers REALLY need to start thinking about the types of food they are processing for our consumption. The newest excuse I've heard is that "it's too expensive to eat healthy". That is moronic. Our doctors need to be trained to coach their patients to go back to the basics - how to achieve a healthier lifestyle with proper nutrition, exercise and a little restraint. When is the last time your doctor took the time to even ask you what you put in your mouth on a daily basis? When is the last time he or she had time to do anything much other than give you a pill or a shot or order a test. I can promise everyone that there is no quick fix to this problem. Drugs are not going to fix it - they will only make it worse and propel the problem into yet an entirely new dimension. This is where our country is in denial. We are a sick country in more ways than this…

And finally, MNB user John Lampanaro wrote:

The “National Association To Advance Fat Acceptance”…I guess there is a cause for everything. Only in America!

…If being “fat” has it’s own inherent desirable “quality of life” then wouldn’t it stand to reason that “the fatter the better” quality of life ? Where does it stop?

Actually, we think it stops the way a certain scene in “Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life” ended. If you haven’t see the movie and don’t know what we’re talking about…well, we’re not going to explain it here. If you have seen the movie, you know exactly what we’re talking about.

“Bring me a bucket…”
KC's View: