Sample Two: Town Hall Meeting / Debate
Break your class into groups and offer the following instructions:
Once you are broken down into groups, your group will have to write an opening statement representing your point of view on the above question. We will then have an extended and open debate in which each group maintains their persona. Use what we have read in Nickel and Dimed and last night’s article to come up with reasons to support your point of view. Hopefully, we can come to some sort of agreement as the debate progresses.
Here are the players in the debate:
WAL-MART CEO—You are the CEO of the world’s largest corporation. You will present the reasons why your business practices are sound, make sense, and operate within legal boundaries. Not only that, you very firmly believe that this company provides a great service for the American people: cheap goods and lots of jobs.
OWNER OF MOM AND POP SHOP IN MISSISSIPPI—Your local grocery store had operated successfully for 25 years in a small town. You paid your workers well, offered them benefits, and kept reasonable store hours. After a Super Wal-Mart was built on the edge of town, you found that you lost a lot of business. You could not keep up with the lower prices. Eventually you had to close your store. Your are convinced Wal-Mart is the cause of this and that there is just no way local businesses can compete when they come to town. You are very angry.
MIDDLE AGED SINGLE MOTHER AND WAL-MART EMPLOYEE—Growing up in a small East Texas town, you had few job choices, especially because you only had a GED. When Wal-Mart came to town, they hired you and provided a steady income. You feel like while they do not pay you a lot of money, you are grateful to have a job and excited to have the opportunity to purchase stock options—no one in your family has ever owned stock options. You believe that if people keep saying Wal-Mart is bad, it may someday hurt your job and your child. How can a place that provides lots of jobs to young parents be bad?
TWENTYSOMETHING SINGLE MOTHER AND WAL-MART EMPLOYEE #2—You also grew up in a small town in Texas. When faced with the prospect of applying for welfare because you could not keep going to school and raising your child, you began working at Wal-Mart instead. They offered you benefits, but you had to pay huge sums out of your paycheck to get them—when you did this, you couldn’t afford rent. As a result, you have been paying healthcare out of pocket for 8 years. You also were forced to work overtime and were not paid time and a half for it—you feel this wasn’t just your manager’s doing—you think it’s a systemic problem in the company. Also, two male employees that did the same job as you (stocking) have since been moved up into managerial positions—you have never been in trouble, late, or missed a day of work—you feel like the women are not being promoted. Finally, you joined a unionization effort to right these wrongs and you were soon fired for cussing on the job. You feel like this was the company’s way of punishing you for unionizing. You think this kind of business is horrible for the country.
THE UT STUDENT OCCASIONAL WAL-MART SHOPPER—You are the least polarized person in this meeting. You want to understand the issues from all sides and debate both of them in the hopes of learning about how the company affects the country. You’ve heard that Wal-Mart does treat employees badly and this makes you feel really guilty and it makes you not want to shop there because hey, who wants to support businesses that treat their employees like crap? But you are also paying for your own tuition and working a part-time job—if your Colgate, Pantene, and Instant Oatmeal cost 30% more at HEB, doesn’t it make more sense to shop at Wal-Mart? How can you NOT shop there when you have a very limited income? Why should people make you feel bad for doing what you can afford? You want to be an educated consumer and want to challenge the rhetoric presented on BOTH sides.
Sample offered by Lacey Donohue