Are retailers empowering or exploiting the labour?

Posted: August 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

The article on “ Wal-Mart to sell handicrafts made by women in artisans in developing countries: Items will be available online” by Janice Podsada talks about how Wal-Mart is helping women in developing countries by selling the handicrafts made by them on its website. Wal-Mart is recognized as top corporate charity. “Wal-Mart Stores Inc. increased its U.S. charitable giving 10 percent last year to $272.9 million, the world’s largest retailer, likely defending its position as the country’s largest corporate donor of cash” (See link below on NBC news). Being a Wal-Mart employee, I know the fact that Wal-Mart tries its best to help the charities it supports. For example it host barbecues, marathons and encourages all their cashiers to raise money for the charity. Wal-Mart takes the fund-raising very seriously. According to Janice, Wal-Mart has collaborated with Aid to Artisans.com (ATA), so that handicrafts can be displayed on Wal-Mart website to sell. Since ATA supplies business to the people in developing countries, its collaboration with Top corporate charity will aim to boost up the sale of handicrafts. As a result of this, more business will create for the people in developing countries. The organisation who is in competition with Wal-Mart for example Ten Thousand Villages critiques that Wal-Mart’s plan to support (ATA) is a strategy for trade and is not really for charity.

I can understand the fact that no one really knows about the amount of money raised by organisations for charity and the amount of money is actually given to the cause is different or same, unless you work inside the organisation. The interesting point to note here is that Wal-Mart is standing in the good books by selling handicrafts online so that it can create business for people in developing countries. It seems good on Wal-Mart part that it is helping people in developing countries. The irony is that almost everything that sells in Wal-Mart is made in developing countries. The difference in former and latter is that, in online digital labour, the handicrafts are sold under a tag of “good cause” or “charity” and the latter, is just considered as a labour work. Infact, a wallet sold at the jewellery section which is sold as price of $14.95 is actually made by people living in Slums in India for 90 cents. (See link below on working at Wal-Mart). If Wal-Mart really wants to help people in developing countries, they should increase the labour rate. So that people in slums can make good money and live better lives. Wal-Mart on one hand is pretending to empower digital labour because who knows how much money people in developing countries get when their products are sold in North America. At the same time Wal-Mart like every other retailer, is exploiting the labour in large extent by making them work on few cents. Now the question arises whether online business is really bringing more money or business for people in developing countries than working offline or is it same ? Also, how one can make sure that the money they are giving to the charity is actually going to the people?

Read More:

NBC news: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17803920/ns/us_news-giving/t/wal-mart-keeps-spot-top-corporate-charity/#.UBlRUrS5C_g

Working at Wal-Mart: http://workingatwal-mart.blogspot.ca/search?updated-max=2006-02-08T23:27:00-05:00&max-results=7&start=7&by-date=false

-Simran

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