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Saved by Satan
Wal-Mart is considered to by various labor and consumer watchdog organizations to be the Great Satan. Consider this quote about Wal-Mart from an article on CorpWatch, "behind its soft homespun ads, however, is what one union leader calls ‘this devouring beast' of a corporation that ruthlessly stomps on workers, neighborhoods, competitors and suppliers."

Wal-Mart even has its own watchdog, Wal*MartWatch, a project of the Center for Community & Corporate Ethics. The Center's Board includes such notables as the senior officials at the Sierra Club, Common Cause, and the Service Employees International Union.

So how has the "devouring beast" responded to the tragedy created by Hurricane Katrina? Not only with an unprecedented display of generosity but even more importantly by employing their logistics expertise to rapidly deliver relief supplies to countless citizens in need.

As an article in The Washington Post explained that while "state and federal officials have come under harsh criticism for their handling of the storm's aftermath, Wal-Mart is being held up as a model for logistical efficiency and nimble disaster planning, which have allowed it to quickly deliver staples such as water, fuel and toilet paper to thousands of evacuees." Wal-Mart has so far provided "$20 million in cash donations, 1,500 truckloads of free merchandise, food for 100,000 meals...."

The article also noted that Wal-Mart "had 45 trucks full of goods loaded and ready for delivery before Katrina made landfall. To keep operating near capacity, Wal-Mart secured a special line at a nearby gas station to ensure that its employees could make it to work." The president of Jefferson Parish in the New Orleans suburbs said that "if the American government would have responded like Wal-Mart has responded, we wouldn't be in this crisis."

The business model of strict efficiency that has drawn the wrath of so many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is the very one that allowed the company to aid storm victims more quickly and effectively than the government.

The non-union Wal-Mart has been particularly criticized for its labor policies. However, the company responded to the at least temporary closing of over 120 stores with "the promise of a job for every one of its displaced workers...." How many union members could be so sure of their job security in similar circumstances?

At a time when NGOs are trying to use local, state, and federal government bodies and the judicial system to change Wal-Mart's business practices, many government agencies need to take time to learn from Wal-Mart.


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