One of the best commentaries I’ve read regarding the Black Friday actions by Walmart employees and supporters is from Pam Spaulding, in Failure of the American conscience: Walmart reports record Black Friday sales despite 100-city worker strike.
So, what does this say about the American people, the brain-dead consumers addicted to a one-day extreme low price tag, mass-marketed pimped into herd behavior as workers toil for low wages, little opportunity for advancement, and hours kept low to ensure no access to health care while the Walton family rakes in billions?
One significant part of the situation is, of course, the growing number of people working at or near minimum wage, and/or unable to find full time work. So they have minimum amounts to spend. Note the neat circle of benefits for the Waltons, and others at the top. And those at the top do know how to spin things. Spaulding includes this:
‘I’m so proud of what our more than 1.3 million associates have done to prepare and execute our Black Friday plans, giving our customers a great start to their Christmas shopping season,’ said Bill Simon, Walmart U.S. president and chief executive officer. ‘The work of our associates is even more impressive when you consider they served approximately 22 million customers on Thursday.’
Spaulding makes a queer connection:
Chick-fil-a didn’t break a $weat because too many Americans didn’t give a crap that the company donated over $5 million to anti-gay organizations that believe in ex-gay therapy and that homosexuality is connected to pedophilia. …
The LGBT community, like the Walmart workers, are left disappointed by the fact that most people just don’t give a damn … .
This doesn’t mean, however, that OUR Walmart didn’t do something very significant. As always, advocacy and activism are a process. From Josh Eidelson, at The Nation, With Biggest Strike Against Biggest Employer, Walmart Workers Make History Again:
For about twenty-four hours, Walmart workers, union members and a slew of other activists pulled off the largest-ever US strike against the largest employer in the world. According to organizers, strikes hit a hundred US cities, with hundreds of retail workers walking off the job … . Organizers say they also hit their goal of a thousand total protests, with all but four states holding at least one. In the process, they notched a further escalation against the corporation that’s done more than any other to frustrate the ambitions and undermine the achievements of organized labor in the United States.
Walmart associates routinely report the use of threat and retaliation when employees seek to make their concerns known, and especially when they organize. As Eidelson writes, retaliation was an “ever-present theme of the day,” driving some to strike, and fueling the fear that kept others at work.
The protests and rallies included, among other things, Light Brigades and in-store mic checks. (emphasis added)
The Maryland protesters split up after their rally into two groups: a larger one which leafleted and caroled at a store in Laurel (‘I saw Walmart fire Santa Claus’, ‘Deck the aisles with living wages’) and a smaller group of community activists that headed to nearby Severn. There, about fifty people … launched a mic check, the crowd echoing an organizer from Jobs with Justice as she read from a prepared script: ‘We call on Walmart to change. We call on Walmart to stop bullying.’ After being warned by police, the group turned and left, chanting ‘We’ll be back.’
Eidelson’s piece also addresses the fact that the hiring practices of mammoth-size Walmart effect more than their international 2,100,000 employees.
Felicia Miller, a UFCW member working at Safeway as a deli clerk, told The Nation that Walmart is driving down standards for new workers at her unionized store. ‘The young people coming in, pay stinks now because of Walmart…’ said Miller. ‘Because our companies are saying, If Walmart can get away with it, why can’t we?
Finally, do check this out: the The Weight of Walmart (Infographic). It’s too large to post here, but definitely worth the click.
You might be familiar with the status: Walmart’s the largest grocery store in the U.S., the largest retailer in the world, the leader in global corporate revenue and the largest employer in existence. Still, these facts don’t do much to demonstrate the reach of this superpower.
The “Infographic” includes: “If revenue were Walmart’s national GDP it would be the 25th largest economy in the world”; “If Walmart were a national economy, they would rank first in the world for income inequality. CEO Michael Duke makes more in an hour than his sales associate will in a year”; “The Waltons are the 2nd wealthiest family on earth; yet 20 billionaires donate more their paltry 2% contribution.”
(OUR Walmart Logo via OUR Walmart)