I must admit, when I saw Wal-mart’s new “Official Supporter of Moms” advertising campaign I scratched my head a little bit.
“Hey…isn’t Wal-mart involved in a class action lawsuit in history over gender discrimination?” I thought.
Google at my fingertips, I soon learned that Wal-mart was not only involved in a class action lawsuit, but the largest class action lawsuit in history!
Betty Dukes started working at a California Walmart in 1994. She was promoted to Customer Service manager in the summer of 1997. After her promotion, Dukes experienced various instances of discrimination. She was regularly left uninformed about promotions. Her hours and wages were cut and she was discouraged from applying for management positions. Her male coworkers weren’t reprimanded for similar offenses.
As it turns out, Dukes wasn’t the only woman Wal-mart discriminated against. Despite having seniority and higher performance ratings, women at Wal-mart statistically earned less and were passed over promotions time and time again. On average, a woman worked at Wal-mart for 4.38 years before being promoted while her male coworkers worked only 2.86 years.
The discrimination wasn’t limited to the store level. Women in management earned on average $5,000 less than men and had to wait a year and a half longer for the privilege. At the top level, a male senior vice president earns $419,435 while four women with the same title earn only $279,772. Across the board, women earned five to 15 percent less than male employees for the same work.
In April 2010, the federal court ruled that thousands of female Wal-Mart employees could sue in a single class over allegations of discrimination. Wal-Mart requested that the case be brought before the Supreme Court. Filed in 2001, Dukes v. Wal-mart is the largest class action lawsuit in history.
According to the 9th circuit court of appeals,
“Plaintiffs contend that Wal-Mart’s strong, centralized structure fosters or facilitates gender stereotyping and discrimination, that the policies and practices underlying this discriminatory treatment are consistent throughout Wal-Mart stores, and that this discrimination is common to all women who work or have worked in Wal-Mart stores.”
This September, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce urged the Supreme Court to review the ruling, claiming they’d rather review each of the 1.5 million women on a case-by-case basis. Efficient, ey?
…Which brings us back to Wal-mart Moms.
Wal-mart has recently launched a social-networking platform for moms to interact and share money saving tips. The website features original content and blogs from women across the country. The network hosts biographies of Wal-mart moms and offers plenty of consumer reviews.
From a public relations standpoint, this network of middle-class mothers is brilliant. From a woman’s perspective, I find it troubling. Wal-mart seems to think if they focus on the communal struggle of women nationwide we will ignore the 1.5 million other women they’ve systematically kept down
This campaign suggests Wal-mart supports us and wants us to succeed, but only if we aren’t on the payroll. Wal-mart expects us to buy its 40 cent can of beans subsidized by the Betty Dukes behind the counter- and blog about it.
The Bottom Line
Wal-mart’s success can be attributed to the discriminative labor practiced designed to keep prices low. You’ll save on a giant bottle of ketchup now, but the women down the street is earning an insufficient wage for your privilege. There is a reason the National Organization for Women named Wal-mart a “Merchant of Shame.”
To shift the focus from its discriminative culture, Wal-mart has created a network of women-friendly content. Wal-mart supports moms and saves you money-
Do you buy it?