One part of the American dream is owning that house on the hill. Another part of the American dream is being able to buy and pay for that house by owning one’s own business. Certainly owning a business and entreneurship has been a bedrock foundation upon which America was built. America capitalism is a large part derived from the small business owners and currently more then % of our economy is from small business. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult for small businesses to compete with the big corporations. Even some big corporations are having difficulty competing with the giant corporations. Wal-Mart for example is not only dominating the discount stores its new venture of one stop shopping is to muscle its way into the grocery and car care market. Wal-Mart appears to have the capital and market client to begin to dominate in these new niches. Wal-Marts primary avenue into these markets is simple—discount pricing. As Wal-Mart grows profits and stock prices are rosy. But another aspect of the American dream—that business owners will pay and otherwise treat their employees with dignity and respect appears to have some ugly wrinkles inside the Wal-Mart corporations. Wal- Mart has been in the news for complaints of low pay, scant benefits, race and sex discrimination, and profiting from mistreated workers in foreign "sweatshops." If Wal- Mart is gaining a competitive edge at the expense of its employees pay and benefit packages a key question is raised—will Americans take a stand on principles or will pricing prevail. Certainly Americans love to shop and want the best deal. As it has grown into a powerhouse with sales of $256.3 billion—more than the sales of Microsoft and retail competitors Home Depot, Kroger, Target, and Costco combined—Wal-Mart has become a lightning rod nationwide in local tempests of moral outrage. A common charge against Wal-Mart is that it doesn't pay a "livable wage." WalMart pays low wages and appears to aggressively seeks to keep wages down. On average, WM workers earn an estimated $8.00/hour with a 32 hour work week. This equals $256 a week or $13,312 a year. The Federal poverty level for a family of three is $14,630. In contrast, union grocery workers earn on average 30% more. Also, it is alleged that WalMart’s personnel policies are aimed at keeping wages low. Charges have been made that older workers are laid off to bring in younger and cheaper employees. Some 40 lawsuits accuse WM of a failure to pay overtime. Accusations have also been made of widespread sex discrimination to keep a class of employees - women - at lower wages. But WalMart is not just a threat to the standard of living of its own employees. It damages the standard of living of numerous others in the economy. To begin with, it pulls wages and benefits down in other grocery stores. It lowers area standards. In some cases, it forces the closure of better paying firms. Business Week estimates for every WM supercenter that opens, two other supermarkets will close. It pressures suppliers to make products more cheaply, putting pressure on wages, causing jobs to be moved overseas. Last year, it imported 12 billion in goods from China, 10% of US imports from that nation. Health care 2/3’s of WM workers can’t afford to participate in the company health insurance plan, which costs about 20% of a worker’s paycheck. Since 1993 WM has increased the premium cost for its workers by 200%, well above the rise in cost of health insurance. Again, the effect spreads to competitors. Witness the Safeway strike. The costs of the southern California grocery strike can be considered a response to WalMart. WalMart is a major contributor to the creation of a US economy that is characterized by enormous numbers of people trapped in low pay, no benefit, dead-end service jobs. WalMart is both a cultural symbol and is an economic force that proclaims free market materialism uber alles. It destroys other institutions based on relationships of human connection and solidarity -- be they neighborhood businesses or unions. WalMart helps transform people into anomic creatures whose lives are dominated by the search for bargains -- at whatever social cost. The recent case in which a crowd of WM shoppers trampled a woman in their desire to purchase a $29.00 DVD illustrates the WalMart impact on values. The history of the last century has shown what we all suspected -- that the human species has extraordinary capabilities towards good or evil, nobility or depravity. WalMart fails the test as to whether it brings out the best in us. Historically, service jobs have not been the basis for making a living. Fully two-thirds of Wal-Mart employees, according to the company, are senior citizens, college students, or second-income providers unlikely to rely on these jobs as their only means of sustenance. Critics say Wal-Mart is so dominant that it drives down retail wages everywhere, but service sector jobs paid low wages long before the retailer's ascent. "Front-line service sector employees have never made livable wages," says Jim Hoopes, professor of business ethics at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, "or at least they have always been among the most poorly paid." Hoopes is quick to point out that such jobs form an increasing share of the U.S. economy. But that trend is much larger than Wal- Mart. 56% of Americans agreed Wal-Mart is bad for America…. The popular Wal-Mart slogan “Always low prices,” How about low prices, at a cost…that cost being human labor and poor benefits. Americans that are pressured by economics (poor) will they give in to lower prices over employee recognition and consideration A class-action suit settled in 2000 accused Wal-Mart of cheating 69,000 Colorado employees of overtime pay. Wal-Mart reportedly paid $50 million to settle the case. Gallagher says that figure is "wildly inflated and inaccurate." She declined, however, to reveal the settlement amount. A class-action suit in Massachusetts filed on behalf of 55,000 Wal-Mart employees, according to the Boston Herald, cites a computer expert alleging to have found 7,000 cases of Wal-Mart managers deleting large blocks of time from their employee payroll records. Wal-Mart officials deny the charges. The Oregon lawsuit charged that some supervisors locked employees in after closing to force the overtime work. Wal-Mart's Gallagher declined to comment on this charge. Wal-Mart policies forbid such "off-the-clock" practices. But David Batstone notes in Saving the Corporate Soul & (Who Knows?) Maybe Your Own (Jossey-Bass, 2003) that store managers come under such heavy pressure from Bentonville to avoid paying overtime that they see no option but to demand off-the-clock labor. "A senior Wal-Mart payroll executive revealed under court deposition that every store has to send corporate headquarters a daily report noting whether the store had exceeded its payroll limit," Batstone writes. "Store managers who fail to minimize overtime pay can be reprimanded or fired." SPECIALTY MARKET The possible demise of Larry's Markets as an independent has been blamed on an increasingly crowded high-end segment of grocery retailing. With local and national players such as PCC, Metropolitan Markets, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods already here, and more entrants such as Wild Oats just over the horizon, Larry's had largely lost the distinctiveness that came from inhabiting a market sector it once had largely to itself. Larry's is in trouble not just because of all those competitors in the high-end market. It's in trouble because the Safeways and Fred Meyers of the world have elbowed their way into the same category. When the neighborhood Safeway has an olive bar, when Fred Meyer has a staffed seafood counter -- the sort of accoutrements once considered the exclusive province of the high-end grocers -- it's obvious that something has changed dramatically in the business. Trader Joe's small stores and quirky newsletter may give it a folksy air, but the company actually operates more than 200 stores around the country, and is owned by a German company. Larry's has six stores in the market; Safeway has 169 in Washington alone. The pressure is on for chains to add even more features, product lines and specialty departments even as they're adding locations -- and, oh, by the way, consumers don't necessarily want to pay high-end prices just because they're getting high-end amenities. Chains with scale can accommodate those pressures. It's much tougher for small local outfits like Larry's to do so. Imitation is the highest form of flattery and Larry's Market grocery chain was flattered to death. Imitators sprouted up like spring flowers. Trader Joe's arrived. PCC infused its organic stock with a dash of élan. The QFC and Safeway chains remodeled their stores and broadened their offerings. The upscale grocery chain Whole Foods moved into the area. Bargain stalwarts like Costco and Fred Meyer used their enormous buying power to feature high-end products at competitive prices. Suddenly, the original Larry's did not seem so original.