Friday, October 12, 2012

Walmart Strikers: "A tiny ripple of hope.."

Bravo to the striking workers of Walmart, who have never been allowed to unionize, a fact that has led to poor working conditions, inadequate pay, and retaliation from the employer if workers dare to speak out against conditions. Enough is enough, they've said - and not before time!
(Photo:Matt Hamilton)
Each time someone stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.
~ Robert F. Kennedy
Trades unions have been de-fanged by conservative governments and weak-kneed liberal administrations have failed to bring back balance to the situation, leaving "The People" - ordinary people - without recourse to right any wrongs perpetrated upon them. What other avenue did, and do, we The People have? What power do ordinary people now hold? None. Our votes at election time can be easily manipulated by the power of money and bought media.

In the 1950s workers found their strength in the union movement. They took things a tad too too far though, and lessons must be learned from that. Downfall of the unions at the hands of the dreadful Margaret Thatcher in Britain, and conservative administrations in the USA followed. Trades unions: the only tool of The People are effectively supressed, but events such as these Walmart strikes, small as they may be, could light a spark which will could spread to a blaze in a fairly short span of time.

Piece by Adil Ahmed at
While presidential candidates are fighting over accurate jobs numbers, Wal-Mart's associates are striving to address income inequality and depraved working conditions.

The first retail worker strike against Wal-Mart has spread from Los Angeles, where it began last week, to stores in a dozen cities, a union official said Tuesday. According to the Huffington Post, Wal-Mart workers walked off the job in Dallas, Seattle, the San Francisco Bay area, Miami, the Washington, D.C., area, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Chicago and Orlando, said Dan Schlademan, director of the United Food and Commercial Workers' Making Change At Wal-Mart campaign. Workers also went on strike in parts of Kentucky, Missouri and Minnesota, he said.

Tuesday's walkouts included 88 workers from 28 stores ... a fraction of the 1.4 million who work at Wal-Mart, the world's largest private employer. Until Friday, when about 60 Wal-Mart employees walked off the job for a day in LA, no Wal-Mart retail workers had ever gone on strike, the union said.

The workers are protesting company attempts to "silence and retaliate against workers for speaking out for improvements on the job," according to a United Food and Commercial Workers news release. Walmart workers, who are not unionized, have long complained of low pay and a lack of benefits.

These workers must be heard. Here are 9 reasons why:

1) In under a week, a strike that started out of a Los Angeles warehouse has spread to over 12 cities across the country. Clearly, the workers’ issues of poverty-wages, horrendous working conditions, and unaffordable health care policies are widely and deeply felt. Moreover, they are specific and can be addressed directly with management.

2) 90% of Americans live within 15 minutes of a Wal-Mart. As the walk-outs persist, Wal-Mart associates will be able to educate more customers about their employer’s abusive working conditions. Flyering at a Wal-Mart can potentially have the reach of a major Super PAC ad buy.

3) As the general public engages the strikers, so will the media. As the press investigates, the truth will unfurl. The last time this happened, it was discovered that Wal-Mart de Mexico had allegedly been involved in a bribery campaign to open new stores. This seems like the tip of an iceberg. Who knows what will come out next?

4) As the workers’ issues gain more press, straddling politicians will get off the fence...............(See the rest at link above)


mike said...

Walmart's customers have always had the ability to make Walmart negotiate for a number of good causes, but seem unwilling to by-pass the cheap goods that are sold there. I'm glad to see the employees strike for their cause, but I suspect that Walmart will simply hire replacements. I read several articles recently that Target and Walmart hire approximately 3 employees for every 100 applicants, so they have a large pool of potential replacements.

Twilight said...

mike ~~ I understand your point about the store's customers, but am not certain that, even were they to boycott the store in numbers great enough to make a difference, it'd force the store authorities to improve employees' working conditions. It could put the company out of business, eventually, or at least drastically reduce their presence though.

What I hope these strikes, if they expand and continue, will do is raise customers' awareness of what's been going on for a long time. People just don't stop to wonder about things like this - it has to be pushed into their faces.

Then, maybe some customers will begin to re-think their options.

When I first arrived in the US I didn't know anything about Walmart - but as it happened it was the first store we visited, at 2 a.m. on the date of our arrival from the UK - to fill the fridge. A store open at 2 a.m.!! Wow, thought I!

It was some time later that I began to understand the draw-backs, and once I learned Walmart's position on unions we began avoiding shopping there as much as possible. It's not always possible, there are not a lot of alternatives here for some items. I think many people are in the same position throughout the country.

What will Walmart do about the strikes if they expand and continue? I'm don't know anything about employment law here in the US. I guess the strikers have looked into this, or have asked for advice on it.

But I find it hopeful that people are waking up - at last - and doing something. Tiny ripples.....

Wisewebwoman said...

I recommend the doc the high cost of low price to you, T. Brilliant take down of Walmart and how Quebec threw them out of their province.

I am still staggered at my friends. At a BBQ last night, ALL of them were still shopping Malwart. Low prices (right).

I'd say more would be striking only they can't afford the docking of their pay. :(



Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~~ Thanks for the hint, WWW. I shall watch that documentary later- I think I might have seen some clips from it in the past.

I've never thought Walmart's prices were much lower - for food items anyway. It'd be easier to avoid Walmart if one lived in a big city - or bigger than ours anyway. There'd be more options for certain items.

What I find very, very sad for the strikers is that neither of the major political parties could care less about them. I'm sure Bernie Sanders is on their side, maybe Dennis Kucinich (he has lost his seat though), but when do we read any politician attempting to address injustices such as are going on at Walmart, and I'm certain in other huge companies? Never.
Tighter labour laws giving employees better protection are needed.....but they would harm profitability for the 1% wouldn't they? Ain't gonna happen!

mike (again) said...

An excellent PBS Frontline special about Walmart:

Twilight said...

mike ~~ Thanks - will check that out.

anyjazz said...

Warmalt is cashing in on slave labor not only with the suppliers of their cheap merchandise, but from their own staff.

They artfully closed four other groceries and countless small businesses in our area and then raised prices. Not so cheap anymore.

Now they have introduced their own house brand which they are insidiously forcing upon the hapless customers by simply being "out" of the name brand they came to purchase.

No competition, no selection.

It is the basic corporate model. Eventually we shall all "owe our souls to the company-store".

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~~ Well - as long as Homeland holds up, we've at least one alternative for most food and household items.

I hope some Walmart staff locally decide to support the strikes - one big one planned for Black Friday after T/giving I think.