Wal-Mart: Greedy Villain or a Shopper's Best Friend?

ByABC News
November 11, 2005, 12:03 PM

Nov. 11, 2005 — -- In every one of Wal-Mart's thousands of stores they begin the day with a company cheer. It's supposed to inspire employees and remind them that the customer comes first.

We spoke with employees who say they like working for the retail chain, but others call the workers victims of "exploitation."

Critics say Wal-Mart is responsible for wrecking communities, discriminating against women, failing to provide good health benefits and underpaying its workers.

Robert Greenwald's new documentary, "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price," depicts the retail giant as a greedy beast grabbing everything in its path.

Now, a big union-led campaign intends to force Wal-Mart to stop being "greedy." Paul Blank was hired by the Food and Commercial Workers Union to convince people not to shop at Wal-Mart until the company pays workers more.

"For a one-penny increase, they could provide their workers with $2 more in wages and benefits," Blank told "20/20." "The average associate at Wal-Mart makes $8.23 an hour that's not a job that can support a family."

In response, Wal-Mart says the average wage is about $1 an hour more than that, but it's still not a lot.

"They have taken the values, the morals, the ethics, fairness that are the fabric of our society and put them aside and put their profits before their people," said Blank.

The children of Wal-Mart's founder, in contrast to its workers, are billionaires. Does that make them greedy?

They wouldn't talk to us about that. But three years ago, another billionaire, Ted Turner, did.

The media mogul called greed "ambition."

"America is about competition and rising above that competition. That's at the basis of what makes our economy and our society tick," said Turner.

But in America capitalists are often vilified, as if one person's success means another's loss.

"That's really a child's view of -- of how the world works," said philosopher David Kelley, of The Objectivist Institute.