Saturday, January 28, 2006

Walmart and academia

They're not as dissimilar as one would think. (Hattip to Coray for the link :)).
Retail giant Wal-Mart has created its share of enemies for its competitive practices, low wage and benefits packages, and for putting mom-and-pop stores out of business. Some localities have successfully kept the company from building stores in their communities and, earlier this month, Maryland passed a law forcing Wal-Mart to devote 8 percent of payroll spending to employee health benefits.

Despite all this, the store received 25,000 applications for 325 openings for a new Chicago area store. Critics charge that this will encourage a race to the bottom, as the store fills many of these vacancies with part-time employees and offers lower wages and benefits than the competitors that will inevitably fold against Wal-Mart’s enormous buying power.

Meanwhile, Chad Donath, the corporation’s Chicago area manager argues, “That incredible number of applications shows the community thinks Wal-Mart is a great place to work.”

Well, not exactly. What it shows, though, is that 25,000 people would prefer to work in those jobs than the jobs they have -- or don't have -- at the moment.
This isn't just an educated professional talking about situations that "those people" find themselves in. I have a doctorate in political science and have found myself in precisely the same situation as those Wal-Mart applicants when on the academic job market. Indeed, there were often many more than 79 highly qualified applicants -- Ph.D.s with publications and teaching experience -- for each college teaching position that I applied for.

Because the academic market is so tight, universities have adopted virtually the same attitude toward aspiring professors as Wal-Mart does to prospective stockers. They demand heavy teaching loads, substantial committee work, a rigorous pace of professional publication -- and offer rather paltry salaries. And that's for people who have, on average, twenty-two or more years of schooling.
Read it all! :) So, I have a feeling that of my 7 dedicated readers, there may be a few in the "Wal-Mart is evil" camp. Thoughts? Personally, I found the comparison with academia to be right on. I'm working as an adjunct right now -- well, this is an elective thing -- you know, teach before I'm in seminary, a student again. But the pay? Sucks. Totally.

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