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Thursday, October 26, 2006

A look Target Business Practices: Very un-Davis

Supporters of Measure K have claimed that Target is a good fit for Davis values. However, some of the research into the Target Corporation calls this into question. For instance, the NAACP gave Target an "F" for their economic empowerment of African-Americans. If Davis is indeed a city of a diversity as the "Target in Davis" website claims, then they should take this sort of criticism seriously.

In 1996, the NAACP launched the ERI as a sustained consumer movement to measure corporate America's financial relationship with the African American community. Since then, the ERI has expanded its scope and has continued to annually highlight diversity efforts made in lodging, telecommunications, financial services, general merchandising and automotive industries.

Each of the industries is rated in five performance areas. Information contained in the report is based on data provided by participating companies in 2005. Survey questions are graded and assigned point values which are translated into a letter grade.

Company Score Grade
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. 2.67 C+
Federated Dept. Stores 2.42 C
Nordstrom, Inc. 1.79 C-
J.C. Penney Company, Inc. 1.63 D+
Saks, Inc. 1.16 D
Sears Holding Corp. 0.00 F
Dillard’s, Inc. 0.00 F
Kohl’s Dept. Stores 0.00 F
Target 0.00 F
Target received an F grade on this score. At the NAACP’s 97th annual convention, President Bruce Gordan called on all blacks to boycott all Target stores. The NAACP is focusing on Target because it is one of the nation’s most prominent retailers.

Target also have a poor record in terms of the use of sweatshop labor to produce the products that they sell. Target has been cited on many occasions in the past five years for extremely poor working conditions among those in third world production factories.

For example, Target continued to source from the Nobland garment factory in Guatemala despite management's aggressive opposition to union activity and the companies were slow to respond to intervention requests by U.S. LEAP. Union organizers were subject to harassment and termination, and the factory was abruptly shut down in June 2005. (see:

Also, Target sources from a factory in Guandong, China where management routinely hides evidence of poor labor conditions in order to pass screens. Some of the abuses include: 80-180 hours per month of uncompensated overtime; severe injuries to the workers; false documentation to make the labor practices look legit.

Finally from the National Labor committee:
"In April 2003, a federal court on the Pacific island of Saipan approved a $20 million settlement on a class action lawsuit filed against Target and 21 other companies. The lawsuit charged that the companies contracted sweatshop labor on Saipan, a U.S. Commonwealth and should be held accountable for worker treatment and conditions in foreign-owned factories operating on U.S. soil. According to the complaint, the more than 13,000 garment workers in Saipan regularly worked 12-hour days, seven days a week, often times "off the clock" without receiving any pay or overtime. The lawsuit also accused Levi Strauss and other companies of operating a "racketeering conspiracy" through which workers, who are mostly young women, sign contracts waiving their basic human rights and pay recruitment fees of up to $10,000 to secure sweatshop jobs. By agreeing to the settlement, the companies admitted no wrongdoing."
Are these business practices examples of Davis values? I find it very telling that while the "Target in Davis" folks are very aggressive on the issue of the LEED and having LEED certification, they have completely ignored the fact that Target in Davis will be but one store among thousands and the impact on Davis is small compared to the global impact by Target. Target has gotten a break because most of the media scrutiny for poor labor practices and poor environmental practices has fallen on Wal Mart--a larger and more notorious company.

However, Target continues torefuse to allow its workers to unionize and has practiced many of the same union-busting activities that the more notorious Wal Mart has used. Furthermore, the sponsors of "Target in Davis" such as Ruth Asmundson refused to allow a living wage ordinance to come before the city council. An ordinance that would have provided workers at Target with $10 per hour wages. As we've documented, current miminum wage would be insufficient to allow Target workers to reside in the city.

So while the 250 jobs claim might be true, most of those jobs will live in West Sacramento or even Woodland rather than Davis. That itself would negate some of the advantage putting a Target in Davis would have in terms of reduced oil consumption. If even 200 of the 250 projected new workers live outside of Davis you are talking about 5 round trips a week at 19 miles a piece for 200 workers. That's 1000 trips per week and 52,000 trips per year. So already a good portion of the existing trips are used up just by the employees of Target. I'm just not seeing a huge advantage in gas comsumption.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting