Big, Bad Wal-Mart

Another day, another negative story on the discount giant, accompanied by an editorial plea for a higher minimum wage.

Another day, another negative story on the giant discount chain Wal-Mart, which comes under scrutiny on the front page of Monday's Times for doing what its stockholders are demanding: "Wal-Mart to Add More Part-Timers And Wage Caps."

The paper's anti-Wal-Mart specialist Michael Barbaro teamed up withlabor reporter and fellow critic Steven Greenhouse on the story.

"Wal-Mart vigorously denies it is pushing out longtime or full-time employees and says its moves will ensure its competitiveness. The company says it gives employees three weeks' notice of their schedules and takes their preferences into account, but that description differs from those of many workers interviewed. Workers said that their preferences were often ignored and that they were often given only a few days' notice of scheduling changes."

(Barbaro recently co-wrote an incredibly biased story about Wal-Mart that resulted in an embarrassing editor's note in the Times, correcting some of the story's many omissions.)

The paper followed up today with a liberal editorial, warning that if the company doesn't stop treating its personnel like robots, the government will find ways to make it behave:

"If Wal-Mart wants to avoid increasingly onerous legislation, regulation and scrutiny, company executives are going to have to learn that human beings are not machines that can be turned on and off, that parents can't always reshuffle their lives on short notice.

"As a business, Wal-Mart minimizes costs and maximizes profits. Society says what is fair, sets the rules of the game through government, and imposes minimum standards. Congress must act to raise the minimum wage, which has sat at a paltry $5.15 an hour since 1997, and reform the teetering health- insurance system. Right now, it's sending the wrong message to companies like Wal-Mart."