October 11, 2012
More than 200 workers from 28 Walmart stores in 12 different cities walked off the job on Tuesday, only the second multi-store strike in Walmart history. Converging on the annual investors meeting being held in Walmart’s hometown, Bentonville, Arkansas, the group issued the following ultimatum: Stop retaliating against workers trying to organize or Black Friday 2012 will indeed be one for the record books.
If Walmart doesn’t address OUR Walmart’s demands, said striking worker Colby Harris, from Dallas, “We will make sure that Black Friday is memorable for them.” He said that would includes strikes, leafleting to customers, and “flash mobs.”
OUR Walmart, a labor-backed organization working to “ensure that every Associate, regardless of his or her title, age, race, or sex, is respected at Walmart” isn’t fighting this battle alone. Joining Harris in a conference call announcing the Black Friday deadline were leaders of the National Consumers League, the National Organization of Women, and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. If the groups’ demands are not met, NOW President Terri O’Neill confirmed that NOW members will join Walmart workers outside stores across the nation on Black Friday.
Walmart spokesman Dan Fogleman is dismissing OUR Walmart’s protests, calling them publicity stunts instigated by the United Food & Commercial Worker’s Union, which has been working with Walmart employees for years, although store workers remain non-unionized. However, Chris Rhomberg, a strike expert at Fordham University disagrees, saying, “If they’ve been able to achieve this level of coordination, I imagine we’ll see more.”
According to an article at Salon.com, OUR Walmart isn’t calling for union recognition, even though Walmart employees are being subjected to standard uion-busting tactics: Threatening and punishing workers for organizing, which Walmart denies, and holding mandatory meetings where Walmart executives preach the evils of organization to the masses under their control.
Walmart reported more than $15.4 billion in profit in 2011, and Q2 profits alone for 2012 were in excess of $4 billion, yet the average Walmart employee makes less than $11 an hour and gets less than 32 hours per week.
As many as 80% of Walmart employees use foodstamps and an article at Daily Kos has these alarming Walmart statistics:
“Wal-Mart’s poverty wages force employees to rely on $2.66 billion in government help every year, or about $420,000 per store. In state after state, Wal-Mart employees are the top recipients of Medicaid. Wal-Mart workers’ reliance on public assistance due to substandard wages and benefits has become a form of indirect public subsidy to the company. In effect, Wal-Mart is shifting part of its labor costs onto the public.”
And just last month Walmart warehouse workers walked 50 miles to protest a series of workplace violations including underpayment of wages, unsafe moving quotas and no access to clean drinking water.” Clean drinking water!
Should We Support Walmart Workers On Black Friday?
On any given day, Walmart employees go to work with three things in their pocket: Their Walmart ID badge, their 10% employee discount card and their Food Stamp card. That Food Stamp card is funded with taxpayer dollars. We, the taxpayers of the United States, are essentially, blindly lining the vaults of the Walton family, a family whose combined net worth is equal to the combined worth of the 41.5% of families at the lower end of the income ladder. That comes out to 48.8 million households.
The average annual income of a Walmart employee falls below the poverty line and Walmart intentionally doesn’t pay their workers a living wage because they know the government will take up the slack with Food Stamps and Medicaid benefits.
Now, before you start thinking that Walmart has to pay those low wages in order to keep prices down and offer you, the consumer, “rolled back prices” and the best deal in town, consider this: In 2010 I wrote an article comparing Walmart prices with Kroger and found that the total bill was 15% higher at Walmart.
So why would anyone in my small town choose to shop at Walmart if it costs so much more? Because Walmart has put every other grocery store in the area out of business, they won’t allow any new grocery stores to come to town, and the nearest competitor is almost 15 miles away – a long haul if all you need is a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread on your way home from work.
Every time you walk into a Walmart store and “save” a dollar (if you actually do) you’re spending an additional $2 in tax money to help support all those Wallmart workers who have to rely on Food Stamps and other government programs to survive. Money which essentially comes out of your pocket and goes directly into the pockets of the Walton family. The Waltons are running a bigger scam than the Fed.
But what about Black Friday when the deals are “Unbelievably low!” There’s a reason you have to line up at the store in the middle of the night if you want to get your hands on those bargains. By limiting the number of big screen TVs and video game consoles and laptops at those unbelievably low prices Walmart isn’t really taking a hit. Once you’re in their store you’re going to spend money, even after those Black Friday deals are sold out.
And Walmart doesn’t take a hit anyway – they force the manufacturer to eat it and if they refuse, Walmart either stops carrying their products or they mark them up so high they won’t sell and then force the manufacturer to take them back – after the holidays are over.
Walmart workers need our support. Yes, those Walmart employees in larger cities could possibly go get a different job if they’re unhappy with the conditions, however that’s not how Walmart works. Most of their stores are in small towns and rural areas and there’s no where else for those employees to work because Walmart drove out all the competition when they came to town.
When you think about it, in some areas, your chances of getting that big screen TV on Black Friday are slim to none, and even if you did, the $20 you save would cost you $40 in taxes and help line the pockets of the Walton family.
Walmart workers aren’t asking for a raise. They’re not asking for union representation. All they’re asking for is a little respect. We can help them get that respect by boycotting Walmart on Black Friday.