America the Beautiful? Not at Wal-Mart : Tyrannical Retailer Attacks Lawfirm Associate Payhikes in a New Mockery of Democracy and Freedom

Legal Week reports today, November 8, 2007 in Wal-Mart memo slams associate pay-hikes, an article by Michelle Madsen that:

Wal-Mart has demanded a freeze on across-the-board rate-increases from its US outside counsel, claiming that associate salary-hikes have had an unacceptable impact on law firm billing rates.

A memo sent out last week by the retail giant to the relationship partners at its network of outside counsel said that while the salaries firms chose to pay junior associates were “none of its concern”, the company was worried by the impact pay-rises were having on charge-out rates.”

It remains a mystery to this observer that what must be clueless Americans and customers in other nations continue to buy any wares at all from this terribly tyrannical company, the world’s largest retailer, for whom democracy, freedom and human rights are mere shadows, as one can read later in this posting.

As reported by Deutsche Welle in World’s Biggest Retailer Wal-Mart Closes Up Shop in Germany, an article by Louisa Schaefer, Wal-Mart tried to crack the retail market in Germany starting in 1997/1998, but had to throw in the towel in 2006 after losing about $1 billion in that ca. 10-year period. It was a sum which we could have saved that company easily, if they had just asked for our opinion early enough. We walked into a Wal-Mart store here in Germany at the beginning of their initial retail campaign and it was instantly clear to us that such a crass low-class cheap-quality and tyrannical outfit had zero chance of success in quality-conscious and – because of WWII – human-rights-savvy Germany.

As Louisa Schaefer writes:

Andreas Knorr and Andreas Arndt of the University of Bremen didn’t mince words in their study calledWhy did Wal-Mart Fail in Germany?[link added by LawPundit]

The authors wrote: “Wal-Mart’s attempt to apply the company’s proven US success formula in an unmodified manner to the German market turned out to be nothing short of a fiasco.”

One example of that might be that Wal-Mart’s American managers pressured German executives to enforce American-style management practices in the workplace. Employees were forbidden, for instance, from dating colleagues in positions of influence. Workers were also told not to flirt with one another.

A German court ruled last year against the company’s attempt to introduce a telephone hotline for employees to inform on their colleagues.

High labor costs may have been a big hurdle for Wal-Mart Germany, as well as workers who tried to resist management’s demands which they felt were unjust.

One Wal-Mart employee told the newsmagazine Der Spiegel that management had threatened to close certain stores if staff did not agree to work to working longer hours than their contracts foresaw and did not permit video surveillance of their work. “

As Knorr and Arndt write, in addition to the United States:

Wal-Mart is serving Argentina, Canada, Germany [no longer], South Korea, Puerto Rico and the UK through wholly-owned and Brazil and Mexico through majority-owned subsidiaries.

It has preferred, however, to forge joint ventures to enter the Chinese market, and a small minority shareholding in an established local retailer in Japan.“

To the citizens of all of these countries, we have the following message. Tyranny does not take over the lives of citizens suddenly, but is rather a slow process of theft. Your freedoms are not taken all at once by the political body that governs your state, but are eroded little by little through the undemocratic processes that you tolerate daily in your lives as imposed upon you by institutions and companies such as Wal-Mart. Once you are used to your rights being taken away, it is no problem for political bodies to put you into chains.

Under the cover of doing a “good deal” for you, cheaper wares are being offered to you at YOUR cost, not at the cost of the people who own Wal-Mart, who are profiting handsomely by your ignorance. Those cheaper prices are obtained by curtailing YOUR freedoms, whether in the person of Wal-Mart workers, or now, in the case of law firms serving this company. In order for Wal-Mart to make an even greater profit than ever before, your rights are being curtailed, more and more.

Indeed, the Wal-Mart failure in Germany led to a documentary cinema film to be made about this human rights fiasco entitled Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. As written by Deutsche Welle in Wal-Mart Slammed at Berlinale:

The documentary, “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price” is a foray into the shocking reality of cost-cutting retail management, into a world where employee rights play second fiddle to just about everything, particularly the deadly serious issue of making money….

One of Greenwald’s protagonists, a young single mother of two, says that when she first started her six-year stint at Wal-Mart, she really believed in the company. But that belief turned to disbelief when she discovered that male workers with less experience were being paid more than her. And that was not all. She was forced to perform dangerous work when seven months pregnant, and hassled by management for taking leave of absence to nurse her dying parents….

Another former employee who features in the film tells of the unscrupulous code of conduct he was expected to comply with during his time as a Wal-Mart manager. From shaving hours off employee’s time cards to paying off town councils which planned to block plans for new stores, Weldon Nicholson tells Greenwald “there’s so much wrong with this company, I wouldn’t even know where to begin….”

Although the film director managed to assemble a diverse cast of people who have endured the worst of the supermarket giant, the hunt for characters was not without its difficulties. “We found heartbreaking stories from people who worked at Wal-Mart, but many of them were just too frightened to appear on camera,” he said in a written introduction to the film. “We found businesses run out of the country, with CEOs who were terrified of talking with us on or off camera because of retaliation by Wal- Mart.“

Many people in America wonder that many Americans prefer to live abroad. Perhaps it is time for Americans to take a closer look at the good old USA they call home. Where is the freedom and democracy that the founding fathers hoped to establish in America? Gone with the wind?

As written by Deutsche Welle in Labor of Love in the German Workplace:

A court in the city of Düsseldorf ruled that the German subsidiary of the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, was acting outside the law in trying to impose restrictions on the nature of relationships allowed between its employees.

The court said that while such regulations might be acceptable and indeed common practice in the US, they are neither compatible with German labor law nor the personal rights of employees.

Wal-Mart introduced a code of ethical conduct earlier in the year. It prohibits company employees from dating or falling in love with a colleague in a position of influence, and from exchanging lustful glances or flirting in any way.

In its 28-page code, the discount chain, requests that its workers report anyone observed to be breaking the rules, via a special telephone hotline. Failure to comply with the rules can lead to the termination of an employment contract.

The Germans know all about that. That is how East Germany and the former Nazi Germany used to work – by denunciation. Perhaps this experience with tyranny is the reason that Wal-Mart had no chance in modern Germany.

But the face of facism is alive and well, in the ownership and management echelons of Wal-Mart.

And now … my dear friends, they and Wal-Mart are after YOU … the lawyers.

It will be interesting to see how – and if at all – the American legal community will react to this new visage of evil. I am betting you will all duck, because the mass of men are sheep and cowards at heart if the visible evil does not affect you DIRECTLY – what do you care?

But I would remind you all …:

First They Came for the Jews

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller


Diversity in Major Law Firms : Paul Weiss Heads the Minority Law Journal List 2007

Diversity is a big issue in the United States and also affects law firms and law firm recruitment. We point out here, pursuant to the citations below, that Paul, Weiss et al. in New York City, our former law firm, ranks number one in this regard, for the second year in a row.

Citing the Minority Law Journal 5/1/07, the Northwestern University Law School Center for Career Strategy & Advancement’s Market Trends writes on the topic of diversity at major law firms as follows:

The overall percentage of ethnic minorities of the 255 largest U.S. firms (209 respondents) jumped to 12.4 percent from 11.3 percent in 2006 and 10.4 percent in 2005 according to The Minority Law Journal’s Diversity Scorecard. The percentage of minority partners, however, is only up slightly from 5 percent in 2006 to 5.7 percent in 2007. The individual law firm with the highest percentage of minority attorneys, 25.3 percent, is Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison (New York). Diversity in partnership is increasing, with 11 percent of all new partners being lawyers of color. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati has the highest percentage of minority partners, 15.1 percent, and Greenberg Traurig reported the highest total number of minority partners, 58. –The Minority Law Journal, 5/1/07” [emphasis added by LawPundit]

At the main page of the Paul, Weiss website we find the following links:

Asian Legal Business Names Paul, Weiss Best IT/Telecommunications Law Firm for Seventh Year

Paul, Weiss Named One of the Best Law Firms for Women

Paul, Weiss Ranks Sixth in The American Lawyer‘s 2007 “A-List” of U.S. Law Firms

Paul, Weiss Ranked Most Diverse Law Firm in the United States for Second Year in a Row

See our previous postings about Paul, Weiss starting here.