Always a rollicking affair, with the feel of a pep rally or revival meeting, by all accounts, the Wal-Mart shareholder’s meeting on Friday was over the top. According to Michael Barbaro, Wal-Mart correspondent for the New York Times, a cast of Broadway actors sang numbers like “Walk Across the Aisle,” “The Day That I Met Sam,” and “It’s About the Customer.” Has Wal-Mart jumped the shark?
For those of you that don’t watch — or talk about — television, “jumping the shark” is a term TV fans have long used to refer to the point at which a show goes downhill. It originates, of course, in that moment on “Happy Days” when Fonzie, water-skiing, jumps over a shark. Usually referring to a preposterous new plot twist, shark-jumping suggests some desperation on the part of the creators. Wal-Mart: The Musical certainly has that feel. Wal-Mart’s sales growth has been slow recently, lagging below Wall Street’s expectations.
One thing that hasn’t jumped the shark is anti-Wal-Mart resistance. In a national “Quarantine Wal-Mart” day of action Friday, thousands around the country, organized by Jobs With Justice and the Ruckus Society, donned hazmat suits and, armed with yellow caution tape, surgical gloves and face shields, had some fun at their local Wal-Marts. Why a quarantine? Because by not providing adequate health care coverage to its workers, the mega-retailer is hazardous to the health of our nation. Actions took place in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, Urbana, Illinois and even outside the Wal-Mart meeting itself, in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Also notable at the meeting, Martha Burk, the feminist activist who made the Augusta National Golf Club synonymous with discrimination a couple years ago, presented a shareholder proposal on pay equity, particularly relevant in light of the ongoing class action suit Betty Dukes vs. Wal-Mart Stores. Wal-Mart refused to talk about these issues with groups like the National Organization for Women for years, but times are changing: Burk had a meeting with CEO Lee Scott Thursday, the day before the shareholder’s meeting.