Congress should shut the bank doors to Wal-Mart, and keep the retail giant out of the thrift industry. That’s the viewpoint at the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which delivered a lengthy letter to the U.S. Office of Thrift Supervision opposing plans by Wal-Mart to acquire the Federal BankCentre located in Broken Arrow, OK. The letter, signed by UFCW International President Doug Dority, warns that the mixing of banking and commerce “is bad public policy”. The UFCW asks, for example, if local hardware or clothing stores would be able to obtain credit from a Wal-Mart bank “conveniently located inside their most aggressive competitor”? Would these kinds of businesses feel comfortable sharing confidential business plans with Wal-Mart? Would Wal-Mart put pressure on its suppliers and vendors to move their deposits into Wal-Mart banks? The union challenges Wal-Mart’s business and employment practices by cataloging examples of what the UFCW calls a “pattern of irresponsible behavior” and a “history of discrimination practices against women, minorities, and disabled workers”. Dority says that Wal-Mart’s “unethical and illegal practices” as an employer “raise serious concerns about” its application to buy a thrift.According to the union, Wal-Mart is now trying to influence a Congressional Conference Committee on Banking that is poised to close a loophole that permits non-financial entities like Wal-Mart from purchasing thrifts. “In a back door deal,” the UFCW says, “Wal-Mart is attempting to have the cutoff date for grandfathered applications moved from May 4, 1999 to the enactment date”. This would allow Wal-Mart to move forward with its purchase of the Broken Arrow bank, which it requested on June 28th. “If the prohibition against mixing commerce and banking is ever sound public policy,” Dority said in a US Newswire story, “and we believe that it is, then it is bad public policy for Congress to provide a special exemption to the world’s largest retailer”.
The UFCW concludes: “Wal-Mart’s corporate practices in its day-to-day business dealings with customers, employees, communities and suppliers indicate that, as a bank, Wal-Mart could make a bad policy even worse to the detriment of competitors, minorities, women, union members, and communities.”For a full copy of the UFCW letter to the OTS, contact Greg Denier at 202-466-1591 or by email at [email protected]