Robert Greenwald's ''Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price'' is not ''Fahrenheit 9/11.'' There are no goofy takeoffs of old television series. You won't see H. Lee Scott Jr., the chief executive of Wal-Mart, the largest retailer on the planet, practicing his golf swing or making revealing comments on camera. He doesn't have to. Mr. Greenwald's film features plenty of star witnesses, many of them former employees. Weldon Nicholson, a store-manager trainer for 17 years, says that when Wal-Mart came into a new town, management people would scan the stores along Main Street and make a game of predicting how long it would take each business to close.
Johnny Faenza, an employee of H & H Hardware, a family business in Middlefield, Ohio, that opened in 1962 but bit the dust after Wal-Mart came to town, is mystified by the corporation's unimpeded march toward monopoly. ''They busted up Standard Oil, and they busted up Ma Bell,'' Mr. Faenza says in the film, but in this case, ''nobody seems to be paying attention.''
The saddest part of this documentary is a series of shots of abandoned Main Streets, empty store after empty store, with Bruce Springsteen's plaintive version of ''This Land Is Your Land'' as accompaniment. But vanquishing thousands of small businesses coast to coast is not Wal-Mart's only crime, its critics say.
They also cite the company's treatment of its employees, whose average annual income is under $14,000. The company offers health insurance, but it is so expensive, employees say, that most people can't afford it. According to the documentary, company representatives openly recommend that workers sign up for government-aid programs instead.
Wal-Mart's record on sex and race discrimination is also addressed. One training coordinator recalls being made to clean the bathroom on a regular basis because she was the only woman in the department. A black man recalls racial epithets and lynching jokes.
In China, a young factory employee talks...
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