The Hightower Report

Jennifer and the Pork Board; and Women of Wal-Mart Fight Discrimination


Get ready for another touchy-feely Wal-Mart ad to saturate the airwaves soon.

Whenever this retailing behemoth gets caught in one of its many abusive practices, it races to cover up the damage with a PR blitz. This time, though, Wal-Mart's image has not merely hit a pothole on the road of greed, but a sinkhole – and it's going to take more than ads for the company to get out of it.

A federal appeals court has ruled that a sex-discrimination suit filed back in 2001 by six women is entitled to class-action status, bringing some 2 million more former and current employees into the case. So Wal-Mart, the nation's largest employer, now has the distinction of facing the largest sex-discrimination suit in U.S. history. As the court put it: "Expert opinions, factual evidence, statistical evidence, and anecdotal evidence present significant proof of a corporate policy of discrimination [against] female employees nationwide." The facts are damning. For example, 65% of Wal-Mart's employees are women, but only 16% of its store managers are.

Bizarrely, the corporation tried to lay the blame for holding back women on individual store managers, claiming that Wal-Mart did not operate as a centralized unit. Now that's a scream, since this giant constantly brags that its central computers keep track of every penny that comes in and goes out of its global empire, as well as the performance of every employee. Workers can't take a piss without headquarters knowing how long it took!

Of course, rather than do right by the women it has routinely wronged, Wal-Mart will continue to unleash its bevy of lawyers to drag out the case, hoping women will be discouraged and quit. But I don't think these ladies are quitters. It has already been six years – and justice is drawing closer.

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Now here's a thrilling story: Goliath bullies David, David slings a stone that stuns Goliath … then Goliath apologizes and gives David some money!

"David" is Jennifer Laycock of Columbus, Ohio. "Goliath" is the National Pork Board, the front group for major pork processors and producers. This outfit is famous for its advertising slogan: "Pork: The Other White Meat."

Jennifer is a work-at-home mom running two businesses while caring for her two kiddos. But she's also an enthusiastic promoter of breast-feeding and a strong supporter of the Mothers' Milk Bank of Ohio. On the side, she runs a sharp, clever Web site called the Lactivist. Through it, she has raised money for the Milk Bank by, among other things, selling a T-shirt with this slogan: "Breast: The Other White Milk."

This play on words prompted Goliath to try to club Jennifer with a bullying cease-and-desist letter from the Pork Board's hotshot corporate law firm. The white-milk slogan, exclaimed the lawyers, "dilutes," "tarnishes," and "damages" the Pork Board's white-meat slogan. They demanded she terminate and destroy all displays of her slogan or face the wrath of the law.

But David did not cower. "I don't have a lot of tolerance for bullies," Jennifer wrote on her Web site, inviting bloggers and social activists to respond to the Pork Board. And, boy, did they! Goliath was stunned with a barrage of e-mails, and the board quickly said to Jennifer: "How do we make this stop?"

Only three days after getting the nasty lawyer letter, she received an apology from the board's CEO, and a follow-up letter pledged that the executives and staff of the Pork Board would be sending contributions to the Mothers' Milk Bank. Also, Goliath agreed that Jennifer could use a slightly revised slogan: "Breast: The Original White Milk."

Way to go Jennifer! Way to go activists! And way to go to the Pork Board for doing the right thing.

To donate breast milk locally, contact Mothers' Milk Bank at Austin at 494-0800.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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Jennifer Laycock, National Pork Board, Mothers Milk Bank of Ohio, the Lactivist, Breast:The Other White Milk, Wal-Mart

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