I'm a left-winger who works at Wal-Mart. As such, I think I have a pretty good idea what the company is like, how it is managed, and what working there is like. In her book Nickled and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, Barbara Ehrenreich revealed that she lied her way in to several jobs, including one as a Wal-Mart associate, and reported her findings. In a style reminiscent of Barbara Bush's at the Super Dome in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Ehrenreich wrote disdainfully of having to zone underwear, of the perfidy of their anti-union orientation video, and on and on.
Wal-Mart is no more or less evil than any corporation. They manage to get all sorts of bad press because they are so large. Extremely risk-averse - trust me when I tell you they try to avoid anything that will cost them money - when bad things happen, they usually manage to make it far worse than it actually was.
As far as the zoning thing is concerned, yes it is mind-numbingly dull, as Ehrenreich suggests. On the other hand, would anyone reading this visit a store where it was impossible to shop because everything was cattywampus on the shelves and impossible to find? Does Ehrenreich think that a store stays neat and clean all on its own? Does she object to zoning because it is, hm, I don't know, manual labor?
Unlike most left-wingers, I have no objection to big box stores, to chain bookstores, or other large and variegated companies that provide all sorts of amenities to all sorts of people. I am not blind to their preference that their workforce not be unionized; I also happen to think that, should EFCA pass (which I predict it probably will), Target, Wal-Mart, ShopKo and other such places will be unionized within a few years. I am not blind to all sorts of things Wal-Mart does that I would prefer it wouldn't. On the other hand, I was not surprised by the "news" that Whole Foods is no better than Wal-Mart, precisely because it is a corporation in business to make money.
The disdain many left-wingers have for Wal-Mart is, I believe, rooted not in some principled stance in favor of an organized workforce, or better working conditions, because the conditions at Wal-Mart are, for the most part, no different than any other place of employment. Rather, I firmly believe, as evidenced by Ehrenreich's tone of hauteur at having to mix with the polloi as she zoned thongs, it is rooted in a class bias against working people and their lives. You see the bumper sticker that reads, "If you see this car at Wal-Mart, it has been stolen", and you have to celebrate such a huge love of the working class.
In short, while I have no problem with getting the word out when any corporation does something illegal, it would be nice to have a little perspective. Wal-Mart is a corporation, no different from Standard Oil, DuPont, or Whole Foods. The tension between the company and its desire to make a profit and the employees who have a desire for stable work at a decent wage will always exist. Don't make any company out to be either a hero or a villain, because, for the most part, it's just a corporation doing what it has to do.