January 5, 2006
Vol. 25, No. 7

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    Conference will examine Wal-Martís global, local impact on the economy

    By William Harms
    News Office

    The role that Wal-Mart plays in the world economy, as well as its efforts to establish stores in Chicago, will be examined in a daylong symposium titled “Wal-Mart, Race and Gender: Local Controversies, Global Processes” in the Assembly Hall at International House.

    The event, co-organized by the Center for the Study of Race, Politics & Culture and the Center for Gender Studies, will run from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 21.

    The symposium will feature a range of presentations by scholars, activists and policy practitioners who will examine the controversy over Wal-Mart’s attempt to move into the South and West sides of Chicago in May of 2004. After extraordinary growth throughout rural and suburban America during the last three decades, the discount store chain has begun to focus its next expansion on major cities, such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

    “By situating this local Chicago conflict in a global context, we will explore how America’s largest private employer’s reshaping of global capitalism is affecting the economic, political and social prospects of women and people of color here and around the globe,” said Waldo Johnson, Associate Professor in the School of Social Service Administration and Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture.

    The conference will examine how race and gender impact Wal-Mart’s reorganization of production and distribution in a global economy. It also will look at the company’s impact on the nation’s low-wage workforce. It will conclude with a sustained discussion of the recent debate in Chicago and of the various ways forward proposed by religious, labor and community groups, said George Chauncey, Director of the Center for Gender Studies and Professor of History and the College.

    Featured speakers are Annette Bernhardt, deputy director of the poverty program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law; Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations; Glen Ford, co-publisher of The Black Commentator; Tracy Gray-Barkan, senior research analyst for Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy; Nelson Lichtenstein, professor of history and member of the Center for Work, Labor and Democracy at the University of California, Santa Barbara; Susan Strasser, professor of history at the University of Delaware; James Thindwa, executive director of Chicago Jobs with Justice; and Kent Wong, director of the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California, Los Angeles; Elce Redmond, South Austin Community Coalition; Rev. Robin Hood, Grassroots Collaborative; Mary Ann Case, the Arnold I. Shure Professor in the Law School; Margaret Garner, CEO, Broadway Consolidated; and Rev. Reginald Williams, Trinity United Church of Christ.

    Co-sponsors of the conference are the School of Social Service Administration, Center for International Studies, the Norman Wait Harris Fund, the World Beyond the Headlines Series, International House Global Voices program, the Social History Workshop and the Chicago Center for Working Class Studies.

    The conference also will a feature a lunchtime book signing for Wal-Mart: Template for 21st Century Capitalism? Lichtenstein edited the book, and he was a contributing author, as were Strasser and Thomas Jessen Adams, who both will join Lichtenstein at the conference.