Last night, Walmart warehouse and retail employees in Southern California walked off their jobs and began picketing. They were joined this morning by Walmart employees in Seattle. And, if all goes according to plan, a great many more will join them tomorrow, on Black Friday, when employees from over 1,000 Walmart stores are expected to walk out, take up placards, and begin marching. According to those behind the Making Change at Walmart campaign, which is, at least in part, being supported by the United Food & Commercial Workers Union, these walkouts are necessary for the following reasons.
…As the largest private employer in the United States and the world, Walmart is setting the standard for jobs. That standard is so low that hundreds of thousands of its employees are living in poverty—even many that work full time. The problems extend to workers who toil in unsafe working conditions in subcontracted warehouses. And also to workers in developing countries such as China and Bangladesh who make incredibly low wages while manufacturing the goods on Walmart’s shelves. That pulls down standards for workers in the United States and around the globe.
Because of its size and political influence, Walmart is affecting much more than just working conditions. Although it has gained much fanfare for its efforts in environmentalism, sustainability has mostly been a public relations campaign for Walmart. The company has written hundreds of press releases and thousands of blog posts, but made little actual progress in reducing the environmental impacts of its products and business.
And Walmart has an outsized impact on our food system. It is the largest and seller of food in this country. That gives Walmart influence over which foods are available to the public, the methods in which food is produced, and the prices paid to producers.
Across this country, in rural and suburban communities, there are too many small businesses to count who have closed their doors due to competition from Walmart. Now, Walmart has aggressively set its sights on the final frontier—large urban communities like New York City and Los Angeles.
The company is also a major contributor to widening gap between the very rich and everyone else. The average full time Walmart “associate” makes about $15,500 a year. And worse, Walmart is pushing more and more workers toward a permanent part-time status. Meanwhile, the six members of the Walton family—heirs to the Walmart fortune and near majority owners of the company—have a combined wealth of $93 billion. That’s more than the bottom 30% of Americans combined…
According to the Corporate Action Network website, while there could be protests at several local Walmarts tomorrow, it looks as though the main ones in our area will be at the Walmart Supercenters in Bellville (10562 Belleville Road at 11:00 AM) and Dearborn (5851 Mercury Drive at 10:30 AM). If you know of others, please leave a comment.
For those of you who can’t make it out to support the strike in person, and take up a few parking parking spaces that could otherwise be used by Walmart shoppers, there are a few things that you can do to help. If you’re so inclined, you could, for instance, write a letter to Rob Walton and let him know that you won’t return to Walmart stores until they begin paying a living wage. (You might also want to ask him not to fire the Walmart employees who walk out this holiday season.) If you have the financial wherewithal, you can also make a cash contribution to the Stand Up, Live Better Fund, which will be supplying striking workers with food cards for their families. And, if you have a moment, you can help spread word of the strike online, asking your friends to join you in avoiding Walmart on Friday.
One last thing… I know that quite a few of you probably shop at Walmart because it’s cheap, and may not care that the company’s employees have been treated poorly, bullied, kept from organizing, etc. While I understand, given the state of the economy, that value is important, I’d ask you to consider the following… The price that you pay at the cash register, when you shop at Walmart, likely doesn’t reflect the true price that you’re paying… We, the tax payers of America, you see, essentially subsidize Walmart, by funding the public assistance programs that keep its poorly-paid employees alive. Walmart employees, more than those of any other company in America, are likely to be on food stamps and we pay the price for that… Following, with more on that subject, are a few facts pulled together by the Winning Words Project.
✔ Walmart’s intentionally low wages force employees to need approximately $420,000 per year, per store, totaling $2.66 BILLION annually in food stamps and other taxpayer assistance… to survive.
✔ Walmart’s intentionally low wages cost our communities the ability to hire and retain important public service workers like firefighters, police officers, maintenance workers, and teachers.
✔ Walmart’s intentionally low wages and lack of covered benefits cost taxpayers over $1.02 BILLION a year in healthcare costs.
✔ Walmart’s intentionally low wages cost taxpayers as much as $225 MILLION in free and reduced price lunches for school-age children.
✔ Walmart’s intentionally low wages cost taxpayers over $780 MILLION in tax deductions for low-income families.
And, here, if you still need convincing, are Walmart workers explaining, in their own words, why they think action is necessary.
Here’s hoping them the best of luck. The Walton family, in the past, has responded harshly to such attempts. One hopes that this time it’s different, and that those who walk out won’t immediately lose their jobs.