Walking around campus these past few weeks, you may have noticed a certain flyer hanging up on the advertisement boards with a smiley face on it. A group of students, with the help of others from outside organizations, are looking to cut Walmart out of the list of approved vendors from which clubs and organizations can purchase goods and supplies. This list of vendors includes other retailers such as Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Costco and Target, among others.
Of course, the first question many seem to ask is, “Why Walmart?” Some in the group noted that Walmart’s discriminatory hiring policies, such as those highlighted by the Supreme Court case Walmart v. Duke, is one reason to cut Walmart from this list. Others pointed out that Walmart’s associates mainly work for minimum wage and are unable to survive on that alone, as explained in detail in the book “Nickel and Dimed” by Barbara Ehrenreich. Walmart’s economic policies were also mentioned, along with their treatment of employees.
On some issues, I do agree with the student group. Walmart’s hiring policies, which may have discriminated against women, along with the near-constant minimum wage (or barely above minimum wage) salaries of its associates, are terrible. However, the one problem that I see in this plan is that other people may argue that other corporations practice the same policies that Walmart does. In other words, corporations are corporations. They will always try to maximize their profit, which means that their workers will more than likely suffer the economic costs.
This also leads me to question whether or not giving Stony Brook University’s money from one corporation to another is really going to mean much. For example, if a club cannot spend their money at Walmart, they will just go straight over to Target or some other large retailer rather than a smaller shop in the community. Even though some of the companies’ practices may not be “as bad” as Walmart’s, they are still corporations, and these corporations are all just competing with each other to produce the highest profit.
Maybe there is a different solution. Perhaps we can get more small businesses onto the list and support the local community. Now this may be a hard argument to make due to the fact that major retailers like Walmart, Target and others make their products so much cheaper than their local counterparts. Presumably that would increase the amount of money needed to purchase equipment, which may raise fees that students would have to pay. Although I know this probably would not come about, I still feel that support of local shops and stores would make the Stony Brook community stronger and help local employment issues.
I do, however, applaud the students’ efforts. While they may not get Walmart off the list right away, they are determined to accomplish this task. And the precedent they set, that the students of Stony Brook can campaign to get something as large as Walmart off of our campus, is impressive. Many years down the road, future students may look back on this and realize that they, too, can do something about an issue they feel strongly about and potentially change Stony Brook University.