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Alternatives to the Wal-Mart Economy

Tonight's guest blog is a collaborative effort with the Backbone Campaign.  This collaboration is part of their Conversations with the Cabinet, a virtual Progressive Parallel Administration. 

Tonight's Backbone Campaign webcast conference call and podcast guest is John Cavanagh.  As nominee for Secretary of Commerce on the Backbone Cabinet, John will speak about Alternatives to the Wal-Mart Economy. John has been Director of the Institute for Policy Studies since 1998 and has worked as an international economist for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (1978-1981), the World Health Organization (1981-1982). His most recent book is the second edition of A Field Guide to the Global Economy.

If you have a question that you’d like to ask John Cavanagh, you can use our comment feature on the MViMV Blog to post your question between 7-8:30pm EDT.

You can listen to the call at Voice of Vashon join the phone call at 8:30 PM EDT. To enter call, dial 1-641-297-5500, follow prompts and enter access code 7764-7377 followed by #. Please RSVP if you'll be joining the conversation.

The Backbone Campaign archives Conversations with the Cabinet; so, if you missed the original call, you can listen via audio streaming from their site.

Posted by Charlene Johnston on August 29, 2005 at 05:51 PM | Permalink


I'm interested in improving fair trade. What would you suggest a consumer do to improve fair trade?

Posted by: Cynthia | Aug 29, 2005 8:12:29 PM


I'll ask Mr. Cavanagh for you.

I'd also like to suggest checking out the Oxfam site.


Posted by: Charlene | Aug 29, 2005 8:19:24 PM

What can we do to keep more Walmarts from moving into our communities?

Posted by: Jessica | Aug 29, 2005 8:26:37 PM

With Wal-Mart in so many communities in the U.S., how do we begin to take our local communities back?

Posted by: Jorge | Aug 29, 2005 8:27:34 PM

How do we pressure Walmart to pay a livable wage?

Posted by: Jessica | Aug 29, 2005 8:33:25 PM

Have you worked with Bono on debt relief issues?

Posted by: Phil | Aug 29, 2005 8:38:03 PM

Despite our opposition to the Walmarts of the world (for many good reasons), it seems to me that Big Box Stores are the wave of the future (part of worldwide distribution system) and are here to stay (WHERE is hard to say, of course, but they will likely be SOMEWHERE near large population centers). It seems to me that the task at hand is to devise processes for when these stores want to come into our communities, sp that local needs can be systematically addressed and considered (vs. just green-lighting these projects blindly) and that anti-competitive activities by these giant stores are curtailed so as to protect local businesses.

Posted by: Ralph Miller | Aug 29, 2005 9:37:40 PM

Summary of John Cavanagh (pronounced Cavana)'s Phone Conference:

The title "Alternatives to the Wal-Mart Economy" has two meanings:

1. Take on Wal-Mart specifically.
2. Use Wal-Mart to symbolie the overall economy.

If we had a "good Secretary of Commerce" we could accomplish most of what he proposes.

Tomorrow the Institute of Policy Study will release a study on Executive Pay. They started doing these studies twelve years ago and found then the Exec Pay was 100x the workers pay. Now, it's 431x the workers pay.

There will also be a couple of other studies being released by the Institute soon: Cost of War, Debt Boomerang

To be continued....

Posted by: Charlene | Aug 29, 2005 9:44:18 PM

The call just ended so I will try to broadly put up the answers to questions and then resume summarizing.

Posted by: Charlene | Aug 29, 2005 9:45:41 PM

Thanks Charlene.

Posted by: Jessica | Aug 29, 2005 9:48:22 PM

Q. What would you suggest a consumer do to improve fair trade?

A. Be aware of your power! You can make changes. There is a growing fair trade movement with a flourising alternative market where fair trade coffee can easily be found.

A poll showed that over 85% of Americans would pay more for a shirt if it was guaranteed that it was not made with exploited labor conditions.

We need to agree to new trade principles that include democracy, sustainability, human rights, and subsidiary. We need to challenge the WTO. This must be a global fight. We have allies in many countries.

When someone says that improving labor rights, etc., would violate the WTO, we should encourage that to happen.

Posted by: Charlene | Aug 29, 2005 10:24:22 PM

Sorry for the delays, Bill Moyer from the Backbone Campaign called to thank us for our involvement in the call. He may be referring people here to discuss the phone conference further.

On to answers to the questions...

Posted by: Charlene | Aug 29, 2005 10:25:47 PM

A. Be aware of your power! You can make changes. There is a growing fair trade movement with a flourising alternative market where fair trade coffee can easily be found.


A new attendee at my Link-Up is lobbying his college's cafeteria to serve free trade coffee. People can do this at their schools and workplaces.

Posted by: Jessica | Aug 29, 2005 10:40:02 PM

Q. What can we do to keep more Wal-Marts from moving into our communities?

A. [This is the answer for most of the Wal-Mart specific questions.]

First, we need a massive citizen education campaign on the real cost of doing business with Wal-Mart. You can educate yourself on Wal-Mart policies and statistics at http://walmartwatch.com/

Unite on many fronts with different organizations in your community, for instance: teamsters, civic and environmental associations, religious leaders, and small business associations.

Advocate for Community Benefits and Living Wage Legislation. [I was given a resolution site in the Backbone Campaign Chatroom but the link doesn't coordinate to these so I'll continue to research and post here later.]

Posted by: Charlene | Aug 29, 2005 10:47:22 PM

Q. Have you worked with Bono on debt relief issues?

A. Yes. Celebrities like Bono bring much attention to the problems at hand; though, they shouldn't be expected to understand the technical side of the problems. They help in making the moral plea.

The idea of canceling debts every 7 yers comes straight out of the bible. The religious community can help to create the moral argument. For instance, it was the Pope that said you've got to be for debt cancellation to Bill Clinton.

Activists were recently horrified that the US bought the vote to pass CAFTA. [he mentioned Public Citizen during the conversation. here is the site I found that tracks the deals made for the vote http://www.citizen.org/hot_issues/issue.cfm?ID=1172] The good news about this is that the deals were so blatant that there are efforts to reverse the vote by stalling the WTO in December. In Dec, the WTO meets in Hong Kong and activists are preparing for a big fight.

Posted by: Charlene | Aug 29, 2005 10:59:16 PM

Ralph, I think similar measures are being taken in L.A. It's called a Superstore Law. http://www.laane.org/ad/superstores.html Do you have any experience or personal knowledge about this?

I see that as a good first step. Ultimately, I'd like to think we don't have to put up with the box stores that vaporize our communities and the global market.

Posted by: Charlene | Aug 29, 2005 11:09:30 PM

Here is a site (besides the LA one) that provides much information on the Living Wage Resolution: http://www.livingwagecampaign.org/index.php?id=1958

For elements of the ordinance:

Posted by: Charlene | Aug 29, 2005 11:13:21 PM

Amy Tavares, National Field Director of Wal-Mart Watch, added much to the end of the call.

To hear more, you can catch the program at the Backbone Campaign website. They archive each of their phone conversations. It's a very effective way to learn a lot about a subject from respected experts in their respective fields.

Posted by: Charlene | Aug 29, 2005 11:16:59 PM


Did Amy say anything about Walmart Watch's recent project were they asked us to go to Walmart and buy 5 items and report the prices back to them? I found that very odd.

Posted by: Jessica | Aug 30, 2005 9:16:58 AM

Jessica, I remember the DFA request for that project. I don't recall hearing anything from her about it; but

I did miss a little of what she was saying when I was trying to type something into the chatroom. I had received info that made me think they were going to have me ask the questions that way.

My recollection of the project was that they wanted to prove that Wal-Mart only keeps the prices on their products low in an area until they have driven out the competition. Then they have a community hostage so they rise them again.

Posted by: Charlene | Aug 30, 2005 4:07:32 PM

To Listen the recording of the conversation on Alternatives to the WalMart Economy please go to: http://backbonecampaign.org/media/podcasts/BCCC082905.mp3

To access past programs go to:

Nice to have you folks as collaborators.


Posted by: Bill Moyer | Sep 1, 2005 7:12:40 PM

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