What's the Latest Development?

Nelson Lichtenstein argues that the underlying issue in the Supreme Court's blocking of a class-action sex-discrimination suit against Wal-Mart, "is the company's authoritarian style, by which executives pressure store-level management to squeeze more and more from millions of clerks, stockers and lower-tier managers."

What's the Big Idea?

The way Lichtenstein sees it, Walmart manages to sustain a high degree of corporate loyalty, even as wages and working conditions are eroded, through the rebadging of its patriarchal ethos of old into "a more systematically authoritarian structure" today. Wal-Mart attorneys argued, and the Supreme Court agreed, that even if sex discrimination was once part of the company’s culture, it is now ancient history. But Lichtenstein says that Wal-Mart's insistence that almost all workers promoted to the managerial ranks move to a new store mounts to sex discrimination for middle-aged women caring for families.