Get ready for another touchy-feely Wal-Mart ad to
saturate the airwaves soon.
Whenever this retailing behemoth gets caught in one
of its many abusive practices, it races to cover up the damage with a PR
blitz. This time, though, Wal-Mart’s image has hit not merely a
pothole on the road of greed but a sinkhole — and it’s going to
take more than ads for them to get out of it.
A federal appeals court has ruled that a
sex-discrimination suit filed back in 2001 by six women is entitled to
class-action status, bringing some 2 million more former and current
employees into the case. So Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest employer,
now has the distinction of facing the largest sex-discrimination suit in
U.S. history. As the court put it: “Expert opinions, factual
evidence, statistical evidence, and anecdotal evidence present
significant proof of a corporate policy of
discrimination [against] female employees nationwide.” The
facts are damning. For example, 65 percent of Wal-Mart’s employees
are women, but only 16 percent of its store managers are.
Bizarrely, the corporation tried to lay the blame for
holding back women on individual store managers, claiming that Wal-Mart did
not operate as a centralized unit. Now, that’s a scream, because this
giant constantly brags that its central computers keep track of every penny
that comes in and goes out of its global empire in addition to
tracking the performance of every employee. Workers can’t pee without
headquarters knowing how long it took!
Of course, rather than do right by the women it has
routinely wronged, Wal-Mart will continue to unleash its bevy of lawyers to
drag out the case, hoping that women will be discouraged and quit.
But I don’t think these ladies are quitters. It’s already been
six years — and justice is drawing closer.
Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator,
columnist, and author.