Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, is notorious for abuse of workers, ferocious anti-union policies, embracing sweatshop labour, paying poverty wages, crushing local economies, exploiting illegal migrant labour among many other complaints. The company has come to symbolise the “new economy” of globalized production, precarious work and big-box retail, as well as becoming a focal point for opposition to it. Many communities have fought hard against the development of new Wal-Marts, such as the infamous years-long battle in nearby Guelph, though few have managed to stop the encroachment. Hamilton gained its latest Wal-Mart the Friday before last at “The Centre”, one of nearly forty locations replacing recently closed Zellers locations.

These actions are inspiring both because Wal-Mart is such a large and important retailer, as well as one so committed to precarious labour practices. Organized labour has waned in numbers and influence over recent decades, largely due to the growth of precarious labour (big box retail, fast food, temps etc) into which the movement’s made few inroads. The company is willing to go to incredible lengths, legal or otherwise, to avoid unionization, and on the odd occasion that drives succeed, stores have simply been closed (as in Jonquiere, Quebec). With so many people now working without benefits, job security or living wages, this is a crucial battle for workers everywhere.

This documentary follows a group of activists on a cross-Canada tour of Wal-Mart locations, looking at the effects on communities and local economies. User fliers, megaphones and street theater to engage with shoppers and employees, this flick shows takes a look at the human side of Wal-Mart and the struggles against it.

WAL-TOWN – Sergeo Kirby, National Film Board of Canada

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices
The definitive Wal-Mart documentary, packed with tales of abuse and corruption at the retail super-giant. Interviews include managers who stole wages, workers forced onto Medicade and small-town shop-owners forced out of business.