From Wall Street Journal:
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. remains a pariah to U.S. labor unions and urban activists who continue to hold the world's largest retailer to a different standard than rival Target Corp. as they block its plans to expand into the nation's biggest cities.
Hoping to improve its reputation, Wal-Mart in recent years has boosted employee health benefits, launched programs to reduce its environmental impacts, and paid hundreds of millions to settle lawsuits alleging that its workers were denied lunch and bathroom breaks.
Yet the Bentonville, Ark., retailer continues to serve as the archenemy of labor unions and urban foes, who believe that if they can make Wal-Mart change its practices, smaller retailers will more readily follow suit.
Wal-Mart executives maintain they are making headway against what they regard as outdated and inaccurate perceptions by arguing that the company can generate new construction and retail jobs at a time when cities desperately need the economic boost.
Target by contrast opened in Harlem in July with a red carpet gala attended by Jerry Seinfeld and New York politicians—and little hand-wringing about the consequences for shopkeepers or union cashiers.
"I know they are going to hurt me," said Anthony Ciarletta, owner of the 85-year-old Leto-Ascione Pharmacy two blocks away from the Harlem Target. Mr. Ciarletta said no politicians had bothered to check if he was worried about Target.
The disparate treatment has even begun to rankle a few labor organizers, who note that Target's wages and benefits mirror Wal-Mart's.
By most objective standards, Wal-Mart's compensation is quite similar to its publicly traded retail competitors, and sometimes better. It now offers a more generous health care plan than the retail average; nearly 80% of Wal-Mart's U.S. workers are eligible for health coverage, compared to just 58% for the retail sector as a whole according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Target declines to disclose its pay, but workers in Chicago said wages for entry level jobs, such as cashiers and inventory stockers, start at the state's minimum of $8.25 an hour. That is lower than the $8.75 hourly wage that Wal-Mart has pledged to pay to start in the city, according to local politicians.