Selling Women Short

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Selling Women Short: The Landmark Battle for Worker's Rights at Wal-Mart

by Liza Featherstone

Fortune magazine's "Most Admired Company" for two years running, Wal-Mart offers its customers low prices and its shareholders big profits, but as freelance journalist Featherstone (Students Against Sweatshops) argues, this comes at great cost. Wal-Mart's success is based not only on its inexpensive merchandise or its popularity (Featherstone cites working-class shoppers and Paris Hilton among Wal-Mart's fans) but on bad labor practices. Using a close investigation of the class action suit Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and extensive interviews with female workers, Featherstone indicts Wal-Mart for low wages, discriminatory policies and sexist practices. "[Our] district manager sometimes held lunch meetings at Hooters restaurants," one female employee explains; another recalls being asked to work "off the clock." Failure to post open positions, exclusively male social gatherings, pay discrimination, "persistent segregation of departments"—all are part, she argues, of Wal-Mart's deep-rooted culture of sexism. Many women employed full-time at Wal-Mart make so little that they are dependent on public assistance: "It is curious that Wal-Mart—the icon of American free enterprise and self-sufficiency…—turns out to be one of the biggest 'welfare queens' of our time," Featherstone writes. She doesn't give much time to related topics—racism, exploited overseas labor—but this is a clearly written and compelling book. It may not keep readers from their local Supercenters, but it should make them take a closer look at who's working the register.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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