Black Friday isn’t as dire as its name implies. It’s the day after Thanksgiving and earned the moniker since many retailers’ bottom lines make it out of the red and into the black on that day.

But for a lot of people working for the nation’s largest private employer, and a lot of the folks overseas who sew and cut and ship the goods that line Wal-Mart’s shelves, being in the black is a far-off dream.

We took a look at Wal-Mart at this time of year to remind you that you’ve got choices–a lot of them–on how you spend your hard-earned cash. After reading our package, we hope you’ll look for alternatives that better support the community.

Our coverage is part of a remarkable, national effort to shine a light on the world’s largest corporation. It’s all tied to the release of Robert Greenwald’s movie Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price and aims at reminding people that the company isn’t just a benign discount store, but one that affects us all, even if we never shop there.

Consider some of the issues being raised by publications around the country this week and next:

  • In These Times is writing about the company’s strident anti-labor efforts and how it routinely breaks labor laws.
  • The Nation is reporting how Wal-Mart and the Walton family–the richest in the world with $90 billion–use their money to support conservative causes such as the infamous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth as well as give thousands of small, local donations that buy goodwill around the country.
  • The American Prospect tells the story of a Wal-Mart employee sent to South America to investigate abusive labor practices who then was punished when he found them–in contrast to the open-door policy for employees the store touts as a way to head off unions.

    For links to all these stories and more–including how Wal-Mart, the world’s largest seller of CDs, influences the music you hear–go to, the Web site of the alternative news service AlterNet, which helped coordinate the national coverage. And you can catch Greenwald’s movie in the Triangle.

    It’s easy to get sucked in by loss leaders (and there’ll be plenty announced before the doors open on Black Friday), but the billions lining the pockets of the Walton family (which owns 40 percent of the company) and Wal-Mart’s other investors didn’t get there as a result of goodwill toward all. You can term it exploitation if you want (we sure do), but there is a price to pay for everyday low prices, and that’s an everyday race to the bottom. And we’re all along for the ride.