Wal-Mart (American Mosaic 2009)

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This is a 4:01 excerpt from AMERICAN MOSAIC, July 16, 2009.

Our listener question this week comes from Burma. Ko Maw Gyi is an English language teacher who wants to know about the store Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart is a group of large stores known for selling goods at a very low cost.  The company sells many products including food, clothing, electronics and objects for the home. Sam Walton opened the first Wal-Mart in nineteen sixty-two in Rogers, Arkansas.

Today, the company Wal-Mart Stores, Incorporated is the largest group of stores in the world. The company operates about eight thousand stores in fifteen countries. It employs over two million people. Wal-Mart made over three hundred billion dollars in sales last year.

It recently opened its first store in India, a joint project with the Bharti group, in Amritsar.

There are about four thousand Wal-Mart stores in the United States. This number includes about six hundred Sam's Club stores. Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in America.

Because of its size and influence with suppliers and buyers, Wal-Mart's policies often receive wide public attention. For example, Wal-Mart has received criticism over the years for its labor policies and lack of environmentally friendly efforts. Many critics say Wal-Mart fails to pay its workers fairly or provide them with enough health insurance.

In two thousand one, a group of women took legal action against the company for sex discrimination. They accused Wal-Mart of paying women less money than men and giving women fewer chances to get better jobs.  The case later grew to include over one and a half million women who were current and former Wal-Mart workers.

In a separate case, Wal-Mart agreed last year to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to workers who claimed they had been cheated of their hourly wages.

Wal-Mart has worked to improve its public image by becoming a more "green" company. It has decided to support selling more energy saving products such as low-energy light bulbs.

It says it will work with manufacturers of high-energy products to try to improve energy use. The company has also started reusing materials and reducing the fuel use of its trucks. These efforts are good for the environment and also save the company millions of dollars.

New Wal-Mart stores have had a big effect on small communities in the United States. Some communities protest the arrival of a Wal-Mart store because they say it endangers smaller local businesses. But others say that Wal-Mart brings jobs and helps people save money.

I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

It was written by June Simms and Dana Demange who was also the producer.