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Friday, November 16, 2012

What to do about Wal-Mart

As you probably know, the major chains have put increasing pressure on their employees to put in extra hours on Thanksgiving. For example, one department manager who normally works a day shift (beginning at 7 A.M.) tells me that he is being forced to work additional hours from 8 P.M. to 5 A.M. on Wednesday, followed by a 6 P.M. to 6 A.M. shift starting on Thursday.

No sleep. And very little time for family, on a family holiday.

The head honchos at the store refer to these grueling extra hours as "The Event." Lots of other stores are now having these Events.

Blame corporate greed, yes. But also blame yourselves. If consumers didn't scramble to show up at The Event, employees would not have to work these outrageous hours. Sure, they'll be paid extra, as per the dictates of federal law -- or, as Libertarians would call it, socialism. But most of those employees would rather spend the holiday with family.

There are two things you can do to combat this greed: Boycott Wal-Mart (if only for this one day) and support the Great Wal-Mart strike.

The boycott is a simple matter. Simply don't show up at the Wal-Mart and Target "events."

Attending Black Friday is a black mark on your conscience. Do not go. True, you could miss out on a few good deals -- but those deals come at great human cost. You have no right to critique corporate greed if you, too, play the role of the callous, inhumane money-grubber.

If you're honest with yourself, you'll admit that there's nothing within that store that you really, really need to buy on that day. Do not go. Boycott.

As for the strike -- well, perhaps it would be best if I let these folks do rest of the talking. Everything below the asterisks comes from a brave group called Sum of Us:

*  *  *

If there’s one corporation that exemplifies everything that’s wrong with the world economy -- the violation of human rights in the name of profit, the casual destruction of the environment, the enrichment of the 1 percent at the expense of everyone else -- that corporation is Walmart.

As Walmart expands, it kills small businesses and guts local economies, destroying more jobs than it creates. Walmart consumes more energy than the bottom 57 countries put together, and despite promises to embrace green energy, only 2 percent of its power comes from renewable sources. And Walmart is notorious for gender discrimination: women make up two-thirds of Walmart’s workforce, but less than a fifth of senior management, and the highest-earning women at Walmart make a third less than the highest-earning men.

And Walmart’s unethical behavior is working just great for the people at the top: the Walton heirs have greater net worth than the bottom 100 million Americans combined.

The community stands for putting people over profits, and Walmart stands for the precise opposite. And right now we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fight back against Walmart’s race-to-the-bottom economics. Walmart workers are getting ready to strike on the biggest shopping day of the year, “Black Friday,” and they asked the community to help make the strike as big as possible.

Can you help make the strike possible by donating to the Walmart workers’ strike fund?

For 50 years, Walmart has waged an all-out war on workers -- driving down wages, crushing attempts to organize, and sourcing from sweatshops all over the world. Today, Walmart is the world’s largest private sector employer (only the Chinese and American militaries employ more people), with over two million employees around the world. The average Walmart associate makes just $8.81 an hour, and hundreds of thousands of them live below the poverty line. Walmart costs American taxpayers $1.5 billion in food stamps, health care, housing vouchers and other programs every year because it doesn’t pay its workers enough to cover basic needs.

We can’t overstate how big of a deal this strike is. If this fledgling worker movement can continue to grow across the country, it could be our biggest chance to end Walmart’s abusive working conditions -- which would change the lives of millions of workers around the world.

The workers are taking an enormous risk by going on strike. They have no union, so they will have to go without pay. Some might be illegally fired. Workers who work Walmart’s definition of “full-time” often makes just $15,500 a year and can barely make ends meet as it is, so missing just a few days of work could mean their kids go hungry.

That’s why this strike fund is so important. The money will go to gift cards that will make up for lost pay -- which will help the families of these courageous workers make ends meet for the month. Our friends at OUR Walmart, the workers’ organization, say that this little bit of security could give more workers the confidence they need to walk out and make the strike even bigger. They’ve challenged us to raise $20,000 for the strike fund. Can we do it?

Walmart workers need our help to make this strike happen - will you have their back?

We know the workers already have Walmart scared -- store managers across the country have received emergency instructions about how to deal with the strikes. And if workers walk off the job on America’s biggest shopping “holiday,” they’ll seriously disrupt Walmart’s business and let the world’s largest retailer that it can’t ignore its workers anymore.

The strikes that have already occurred at Walmart have inspired the SumOfUs community. Over a hundred thousand of us have already taken action, by signing our petitions, sharing our solidarity statements, and more -- and almost 1000 have donated to buy ads about the strikes in Walmart executives’ hometown newspaper.

Now, are you ready to help deliver a knockout blow to Walmart?

Click here to support the workers by donating to the Walmart workers’ strike fund.

Further Reading:
"Happy 50th Birthday, Walmart?"
The Walmart 1%
Making Change at Walmart factsheets
[1] Mother Jones: To Match Walton Heirs' Fortune, You'd Need to Work at Walmart for 7 Million Years September 20, 2012
[2] BBC: Which is the world's biggest employer? March 19, 2012
[3] Forbes: Six Waltons have more wealth than the bottom 30% of Americans December 14, 2011
Thank you for posting about this. Speaking from actual experience, I have worked at a super Wal-Mart before, though my time there was very short. I was hired as a stocker and backroom mover and organizer. The hiring process for Wal-Mart was surprisingly lengthy, as was the orientation, and it was all very grueling. There was alot that went into trying to be hired on. The Wal-Mart I worked at was the supercenter in Evendale, Ohio. A great deal of the orientation and training process (which when I was hired on lasted two to three days) was anti-union propaganda. We were forced to watch anti-union videos talking about how evil and socialist unions are, we were forced to read through anti-union literature distributed by the company, and then I had to sit and listen to the hegemon himself, the Store Manager, talk about how Wal-Mart is a "conservative company" and how bad unions are. They claim that unions are bad because they do not allow employees to directly speak to their managers or supervisors directly about issues and do not allow companies to have 'open-door policies'. The Store Manager, a psychotically fascist ex-marine who loves all things christian, capitalist and Republican, said in place of unions, Wal-Mart has an open door policy which in theory permits me to go to my supervisor about anything. What they don't tell you is that unions do not get in the way of open door policies, unions have strength in their collective power, the power of many, as individuals usually have no power at all, and open door policies are bullshit. If you go to your manager or supervisor, they will not negotiate with you and they will only try to get you to see things their way, if you refuse, you'll be terminated. There is no negotiations or compromise to be had. Strength comes from organizing and they know that. They don't want us to organize, to unionize, or to act as one, as a collective, they want to keep us separate so we are weak and defenseless. The influence and threat that unions pose to companies/corporations has been vastly overstated by the Right Wing, as has the threat of voter fraud, because we live in a country where less than 11% of workers belong to a union, so it's a very small minority of workers that even have a union. Yet companies relentlessly attack unions and act like they are everywhere. They should be everywhere, all workers should be unionized and unions should be syndicalized, but that's in an ideal world where NeoCons are no longer the dominant force and NeoLiberalism no longer the dominant ideology which controls the world.

I never even shop at Walmart, but I have been known to shop at Target (not so much anymore).
I never do that whole holiday sale shopping thing anyway.

Sadly, the people that do frequent these stores and their sales are usually the ones that have the most to lose by saving a buck.
I tried to donate to the strike fund, but no PayPal! Com'on Labor get it together. Don't make it hard for me to help. (What'd you think you are-- a Democratic congressional race?)
This is relevant. Folks, this is the kind of world we live in.
Great post.

I don't shop at Walmart or Target. On Black Friday there are two excellent alternatives: Buy Nothing Day on Friday, then Small Business Saturday.
btw, Buy Nothing Day was brought to you by Adbusters, same folk who brought you Occupy.

So how many store employees get trampled to death this year?

Joshua @ 6:52, sorry bud, but after the 2008 primaries I won't spin the Kosshole hit counter.

Here is another link that won't put money on Markos' pocket.
Joe.....Thanks for bringing attention to the Wal-Mart issue. Four of the Wal-Mart heirs are in the top 15 richest people on the planet according to Forbes, yet their "associates" are paid so poorly that many of them are forced to work 2 or more jobs to survive.

These people need our support and I will proudly donate to their strike fund.
Joshua - great stuff. In Britain there are 4 big supermarket chains. The second biggest, ASDA, is owned by Walmart.

Price-fixing is the rule, and all the big chains have, er, rather good 'access' to central government.

These companies are employing increasing numbers of young people, aged 16-17, often working until 10pm, and who usually look as tired as hell.

ASDA is the one that tries to control minds the most, I think. They often come high up on lists of 'best company to work for', which is surely an indication thereof, because in reality they are among the worst for being anti-union. 'Open door' sounds like something out of F W Taylor.

I don't know anyone who works there, but they force their workers to be subjected to 'huddles', or 'we all enjoy working as hard as we can, boys and girls, don't we?' sessions, which workers have to go into whenever the supervisor wears a 'huddle hat'.

Continuing the infantilisation theme, workers of all ages are 'encouraged' to wear badges, often several.

The managers and supervisors act like petty Hitlers, but the same is also true in other supermarket chains. Induction sessions involve a lot of brainwashing, and of course anyone who won't put up with it can fuck off. They don't want workers who don't put up with stuff.

More and more seem mentally subnormal too. My guess is that quite a few workers are routinely paid less than their contracts state that they should be.

ASDA also have a '4 o'clock rumble' to get staff to work extra hard at that time. Their great experts have told them that's when people's 'body clocks' start slowing down.

ASDA are also the chain that most presents a Christian face here.

Here's a letter to the Torygraph backing cuts in government social spending, signed by the ASDA chairman and other assorted senior scumbags from Microsoft, Kingfisher (owns B&Q, Screwfix, etc.), Whitbread, Mothercare, Glaxo, BT, Diageo (owns Guinness, Smirnoff etc.), etc.

While they support benefit cuts, they actually employ a lot of workers for nothing, who are paid state benefits. Not for nothing do the supermarket chains have extensive links with schools either.

The chains are also increasingly using self-service checkouts. I boycott these in solidarity with the workers - but in actual fact, when I've tried to tell this to people, they've either been so under the boot that they've treated me like a pain in the arse, or when that hasn't been true, they've seemed to have absolutely no understanding whatsoever of how getting the same work done with fewer workers means more profits for the employers. Some of these workers would have been considered to be a fucking disgrace in any big industrial workplace in the 1960s or even the 1980s.

I also suspect that workers are ordered to lie to customers about waste. Supermarkets throw away a huge amount of food at the end of each day. I've had workers tell me they never throw away anything, but it all gets reduced in price and then sold, which is an obvious lie; and others tell me it all goes to animal feed, which is also a lie, but perhaps one that many who convey it are misled into believing. (People can be that stupid. Welcome to Britain.)
Good idea, Joseph, although it may deprive me of one simple pleasure for that day. I don't know about other areas, but around here they stop you as you are leaving Walmart and check your receipt against what is in your cart. For years I have politely refused, suggesting they should call the police if they think I've stolen anything. The reactions are varied and amusing. I buy there sometimes because I have to stretch my money but I hate them.
GREAT post and comments, Joseph and all! I've linked it to mine this morning.

Like Bob, above, I'd gladly donate if Paypal were an option. I'll keep an eye on it, maybe they'll update.
Walmart is the security funnel for low income households. Illegal immigration just fuels the growth of WalMart even more.
I've never bought anything at a WalMart. I have been inside one (twice, actually), but the place just creeped me out.

I don't indulge in the Black Friday mass consumption ritual, either.
I never shop on Black Friday. Last year, my lady friend and I were in Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving, and went out that night to see the spectacle of the night time openings (black friday now starts on Thursday night, which is just insult to injury). It was a depressing site seeing the masses of people lined up waiting for the doors to open...or in the case of Wal Mart, waiting for the sales to start, since the store itself never closes. We had to go through a security check point (I'm not kidding) to get inside, and when leaving. How anyone would actually find this normal and not incredibly offensive is beyond me (they are basically assuming their "customers" are all potential thieves).

Anyway, I donated, Pay Pal or no. I am not a wealthy man (or even close to one), but I just had to help such a noble cause.
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