Big-Box Benefits: The Targeting of Giants in a National Campaign to Raise Work Conditions

29 Pages Posted: 7 May 2007

See all articles by Orly Lobel

Orly Lobel

University of San Diego School of Law


Wal-Mart matters to the form and substance of law and social reform in several distinct ways. This article describes Wal-Mart as serving three key purposes - as target, symbol, and model - in the contemporary social reform landscape. First, Wal-Mart, the largest employer in the United States is an effective target, serving as a deep, large pocket which impacts huge numbers of stakeholders. Second, Wal-Mart as a familiar, visible, and brazen corporation serves as a compelling symbol of the dilemmas about the costs and distribution of benefits of for-profit enterprises. And third, Wal-Mart serves as an experimental model for strategically exploring the efficacy of alternatives in legislation, litigation, and political struggles for social reform. Describing these three key purposes, the article demonstrates how recent confrontations between Wal-Mart and the environments within which it operates are shaping contemporary forms of political deliberation, legal strategies and social reform activism. In particular, the article links these three ways in which Wal-Mart has been shaping legal debates by examining developments in Wal-Mart anti-discrimination suits, including the Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores recently certified class action, ADA suits, and wage and hour claims against the superstore. The article further focuses on efforts by local governments and state legislature to target, and use big-box retailers as a symbol of record wealth gaps and a model for welfare reform, in the areas of health care provision and living wage ordinances.

Keywords: employment law, labor law, health law, benefits, local government, social policy, social movement, civil rights, legal strategies, wal-mart

JEL Classification: E24, I1, I3, H51, H7, J3, J4, J5, K31, J7, J70

Suggested Citation

Lobel, Orly, Big-Box Benefits: The Targeting of Giants in a National Campaign to Raise Work Conditions. Connecticut Law Review, Symposium Issue: Wal-Mart Matters, Vol. 39, 2007, San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 07-102, Available at SSRN:

Orly Lobel (Contact Author)

University of San Diego School of Law ( email )

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States


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