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We got several emails about the class action suit charging Wal-Mart with human rights violations in its support of foreign factories that victimize their workers, and about the letter that Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott wrote earlier this year defending the company’s actions in trying to root out and eliminate such infractions.

MNB user Ryan Boegh wrote:

I would assume as long as they implement their “minimum standards”, and I am sure they do mean minimum, they will be safe.
The factories on the other hand that have violations most likely were driven there for the ever present pressure of the lowest cost push of the Wal-Mart buying team. If Mr. Scott is really looking for the cause of the problem he and the buying team needs to look in a mirror.

MNB user Thomas D. Murphy wrote:

There is a bigger, broader industry issue here. As traditional supermarkets move more into general merchandise to compete with the discounters, they will most likely be sourcing offshore product through consolidators and service bureaus, rather than bearing the expense of developing their own organizations and learning the rules of this supply chain themselves. These retailers will have minimal if any visibility into the working conditions at the source of these products due to these middleman relationships. On whom does the burden of inspection then fall and how will consumer and human rights advocates hold these retailers accountable? I am sure that many of Wal-Marts' grocery competitors love it whenever they see bad press for Wal-Mart. In this case, they better turn the light on inside and take steps to avoid being caught in the same scenario!

MNB user David J. Livingston wrote:

It’s unfortunate we must deal with human rights issues in third world countries. But just as our culture and religious beliefs are different, so are definitions of human rights. This is nothing but Wal-Mart bashing. What other companies are being targeted? Kmart? Target? Wal-Mart doesn't run these manufacturing plants, they are only just one customer of those businesses. It really should be up to the countries that these factories are located in to enforce any rights violations. What we might consider appalling, is considered perfectly normal in those countries.

You’re right. There is a certain level of Wal-Mart bashing in this lawsuit. That’s only to be expected – the biggest target gets the most attention.

Actually (and we may be naïve on this), we don’t believe that Wal-Mart or any other executive willingly or consciously looks to exploit foreign workers. That’s not to say that they know everything, or that they want to. But we like to think that most Americans don’t think that way.

But we disagree that because other countries think certain practices are acceptable, we should go along with that because, after all, they are other countries.

That’s nonsense. Human rights are human rights.

No matter where the humans live.

We wrote yesterday about Ahold’s Giant Food, saying that “when we speak to friends in the Baltimore-DC area, that there is a lot of abiding affection for Giant, along with some real disappointment. It is almost like people are rooting for their old Giant to be reborn…which is both challenge and opportunity for Ahold and Stop & Shop.”

MNB user Dan Fulham responded:

On your comment about Ahold and the planned Giant closings in Washington, Consumers in Balt/Wash/Northern Virginia have a better chance of seeing God than waiting for the Giant Food stores of Israel Cohen to be reborn.

Ahold appears only interested in running one banner in the US, and that banner is Stop & Shop. It seems crazy that all the goodwill, both financial and consumer, that Ahold had when these great franchises were acquired has been diluted or in many cases destroyed.

My family lives in suburban Maryland where there is a Giant and Safeway nearby. This is Safeway’s most eastern division and the stores there are nothing to shout about on their best day. But compared to how Stop & Shop is running the Giant banner into the ground, Safeway can run average stores in the DC area and look progressive. That’s scary.

We wrote yesterday that in Ireland, the Animal and Plant Health Association (APHA) is calling for regulations that would require restaurants to include on their menus specifics about where the meat they serve originated APHA believes that because 50 percent of all meat consumed in Ireland is eaten outside the home, the labels on products sold in supermarkets and other food stores no longer are sufficient to protect shoppers. APHA also is pushing for regulations that would require that all products imported into Ireland to meet the same standards as foods raised or produced in Ireland.

One MNB user from the UK wrote:

Please bear in mind that there are far fewer chain restaurants in Ireland than the US therefore the suggestion is aimed at far more small, independent restaurants who would not have to go through corporate levels to reveal suppliers. I would be surprised if most of them did not have the information readily to hand and expect that their target audience is much more likely to be interested in the information than the type of person eating in an American chain. Whether there would be an objection to volunteering the information rather than waiting to be asked is an individual matter. Similarly, many are probably asked the questions already and do not need to be forced into publishing it formally.

Finally, we wrote yesterday about post-Hurricane Katrina efforts, saying that “while we agree that getting supermarkets up and running is critical to getting New Orleans moving again, the impression we get from all the coverage we’ve been watching is that the first things people want to get operating there are the bars, the jazz clubs and the restaurants (not necessarily in that order), because those things reflect the spirit of the city.

MNB user Lyn Howe responded:

So many people are saying that, and it really makes the survivors in other parts of Louisiana and those in Mississippi and Alabama feel as though they are invisible.

You’re right, and we were wrong in limiting our comments to New Orleans. The Big Easy gets much of the attention because of its unique role in American culture, but it was hardly the only victim of the hurricane and hardly the only place that needs to be rebuilt.

Thanks for pointing that out.

By the way, without judging the content of the speech made by President Bush last night, the way it was staged made it look like he was in front of the Haunted Mansion or Pirates of the Caribbean at Disney World, not in the middle of a decimated city.

He might have been better served by doing it from places like the Mississippi cities of Biloxi or Gulfport…or from a part of New Orleans that actually looked like it was in bad shape.
KC's View: