Pacific Research Institute president Sally Pipes dissects the local discrimination suit that became a large-scale legal assault on America’s biggest corporation.

On June 22 here in San Francisco, U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins granted class-action status for a suit charging that Wal-Mart discriminates against women. That is a huge escalation, changing it from a case involving seven women to 1.6 million (current and former employees), the largest class action on record. This is what the plaintiffs’ attorneys wanted but the case is far from over.

As some observers have noted Wal-Mart is experiencing the “Microsoft phenomenon” of size and scope, driving scrutiny and litigation. Founded by Sam Walton of Bentonville, Arkansas, in 1962, Wal-Mart has become the nation’s largest retailer with 1.3 million workers and 3,578 stores. As such, the highly successful company is an obvious deep-pockets target.

As we noted last year, that is why militant attorneys are suing the retailer, and not some local department store. A payoff involving 1.6 million people would be huge and has lawyers panting. Besides its size and success, Wal-Mart is also a non-union operation, attracting the wrath of the feminist organizations like the National Organization of Women (NOW).

Wal-Mart has been named NOW’s “National Merchant of Shame” over labor issues. But if Wal-Mart is such a bastion of oppression, why do so many women choose to work and shop at its stores?

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