Notes for a Walmart Reader
For Walmart, real estate too is a logistical practice. The stores and distribution centers are strategically located to optimize the flow of goods; they form a dynamic and expanding network whose locations are calculated in miles and minutes. Walmart executives thus abstract territory much as barcodes abstract merchandise. In other words, the nation’s largest company sees its territory essentially as a data field over which “all those numbers” are monitored, tracked, allocated and redirected in pursuit of market coverage.
Walmart’s distribution centers, which are as important as their stores, are hybrid structures — part architecture, part infrastructure — whose locations are determined by corporate growth strategies. By the end of 2008, Walmart’s domestic distribution network consisted of more than 100,000 suppliers, 147 distribution centers, two data centers, the U.S. transportation infrastructure (mostly the publicly funded highway system), 7,200 tractors, 53,000 trailers, 7,950 drivers, and more than 85,000 employees.
All Those Numbers: Logistics, Territory and Walmart | Jesse LeCavalier, Design Observer
The same reasoning that drove Wal-Mart to push for cost-effective LED lighting and fuel efficiency for its vehicles also leads them to micro-manage the behavior of their employees, including the time they spend in the bathroom. The same infrastructure that allows them to send fleets of tractor/trailers carrying relief supplies on a moment’s notice also puts tremendous strain on the environment around the components of that infrastructure. What makes perfect organizational sense at the large scale can be inhuman at the local level. Wal-Mart is hardly the only corporation that suffers this problem, but their sheer size and aggressive behavior makes them an obvious first target of criticism.
An architect or designer who subordinates the logic of local interaction and a human sense of scale and perception to the demands of networks and distributional judgment will produce buildings and systems that finally benefit only the ones who own and control them. Voting, political parties, and interest groups are how citizens at least nominally control or influence the networks we call states and force them to reckon with reasoning that occurs at different levels from the global and national. What mechanisms are there to force the same reckoning on Wal-Mart’s owners, shareholders, and managers?
Maurice Meilleur, commenting on All Those Numbers: Logistics, Territory and Walmart
On June 20, 2011, the US Supreme Court put an end to the largest civil rights class action lawsuit in American history: Betty Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., a case that pitted over 1.5 million female Wal-Mart workers against the country’s largest private employer. Suing on behalf of all women who had worked at Wal-Mart between 1998 and 2011, the plaintiffs in Dukes accused the retail giant of discriminating on the basis of sex in pay and promotions, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
The class’s enormous scale — a consequence, of course, of the enormity of Wal-Mart — raised philosophical and technical questions about class actions that promised to have broader political consequences. […] if certified classes could grow to represent groups numbering in the millions, was there such thing as a class that would fail, on size alone, to meet the class action requirement of “commonality”? Could a class, in other words, be too big to win?
Sex Class Action | Dayna Tortorici, n+1