Thursday, September 20, 2012

Walmart in China

Anita Chan
Walmart in China
Ithaca Cornell University Press

Reviewed by Bridget Kenny
University of the Witwatersrand
Global Labor Forum
September 12, 2012

Walmart in China is an important book. As debate rages around Walmart’s operations beyond the United States, this book provides our first concentrated review of conditions at both ends of the supply chain in China, and it gives us an analysis of the effect of unions in Wal-Mart stores, important in the long-documented context of Walmart’s anti-union stance.

As Anita Chan asks in her introduction, ‘[w]hat happens when the world’s largest corporation encounters the world’s biggest country?’ (p. 1).

The lasting impression given by this collection is of how the global weight of Walmart holds forth: codes of conduct mean very little; tiered subcontracting of suppliers degrade working conditions further; regularized (and illegal) underpayment of wages of retail employees are borne by workers with little choice; the tantalizing status of working for a global powerhouse propels the consent of others; and, the ambiguous role of unions – at once opening a potential collective space to workers and yet in practice kowtowing to management’s power and broader politics – seems more like another layer of control.

Read more HERE.

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