Sunday, November 13, 2005

Battle of the Wal-Mart Documentaries

ABC News
Battle of the Wal-Mart Documentaries
One New Film Attacks the Retail Giant, While the Other Film Defends It

BELMONT, N.C., Nov. 13, 2005 — - After 25 years as mayor of Belmont, N.C., Billy Joye was voted out of office because he campaigned hard to bring Wal-Mart to town.

"I made up my mind," Joye said. "I was doing all I can do to keep this city afloat and we needed the revenues of the development badly."

Once home to thriving textile mills, Belmont has been struggling for years. Wal-Mart, the mayor argued, is needed to revive the economy. But many residents fear it will destroy their small town.

But though Wal-Mart won the battle in Belmont, where a nearly 200,000-square-foot SuperCenter is due to open in March, the retailing giant faces similar fights in nearly 50 communities across the country.

Anti-Wal-Mart Effort

Today many of those communities are screening a scathing new documentary called "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price."

"The ultimate aim of the movie," said it's producer, Robert Greenwald, "is to get thousands of people across the United States, and the world ultimately, aware of what's going on and turn them into agents to change Wal-Mart."

The film alleges Wal-Mart destroys mom-and-pop businesses, pays so poorly many employees rely on public assistance, and discriminates against women working there.

The film is part of a wider anti-Wal-Mart movement. Backed by big labor, opponents use rallies and Web sites to illustrate how they believe the company treats workers unfairly.

Despite increasing attacks, sales remain strong, but all this negative publicity is hurting the stock price, down 16 percent this year.

"They've sat back they've taken their lumps," said Brian Hindo of Business Week, "and they've found out it really has hurt them."

Wal-Mart Fights Back

Fed up, Wal-Mart is fighting back, pushing for a higher minimum wage, introducing a new health care plan -- and promoting another new documentary entitled, "Why Wal-Mart Works & Why That Makes Some People Crazy."

Trailers of the two competing Wal-Mart films are available on the Web.

To find a preview of "Wal-mart: The High Cost of Low Price," go to

To find a preview of "Why Wal-Wart Works & Why That Makes Some People Crazy," go to

"I personally think that Wal-Mart, more than any special interest group, has benefited more poor and working-class Americans more than any other institution I can think of," said Ron Galloway, the pro-Wal-Mart film's producer.

That may be why nearly 140 million people shop there each week.

"The price is very good on items in Wal-Mart," said one customer, "and you have a variety of things to choose from."

It seems so long as prices remain low, Wal-Mart is winning this debate.

ABC News' Geoff Morrell and Suzanne Yeo originally reported this story for "World News Tonight" on Nov. 13, 2005.