Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Striking Walmart workers make history


There is a crack in Walmart’s anti-union wall. There were demonstrations by workers and their supporters at more than 1000 Walmart stores on Black Friday. Walmart workers have taken the first step, raising awareness; in state after state Walmart workers have been informed of their rights and shown that they are not alone.

This is a huge breakthrough for Walmart workers. Walmart has been viciously anti-union and is known for intimidation and retaliation. And of course, exploitation of workers and suppliers. The fact that there were 100 stores affected (with more than 1000 demonstrations in support) cracks open the anti-union wall, empowering workers to take further steps.

Josh Eidelson, in With Biggest Strike Against Biggest Employer, Walmart Workers Make History Again at The Nation, writes,
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 (last month‘s strikes drew 160). 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.
“I’m so happy that this is history, that my grandkids can learn from this to stand up for themselves,” Miami striker Elaine Rozier told The Nation Thursday night. Before, “I always used to sit back and not say anything…. I’m proud of myself tonight.”

Walmart Business Model Leads To

Fabulous Wealth For A Few

Walmart pioneered a predatory business model that is stripping America of its middle class, while enriching a very few. The elements of this model are vicious intimidation and suppression of worker rights, abusing size to squash competitors and squeeze suppliers, and using wealth and power to capture government entities and get the rules shifted to further their interests over the public interest.

Walmart and other giants move into a community (often squeezing tax breaks out of local governments,) undercut the prices of the local businesses to put them out of business, take advantage of high unemployment to pay minimum wages, and then ship the profits away to a few billionaires. They use their massive size to squeeze their suppliers as well. They move manufacturing out to “business-friendly” countries where people have no say and can’t say they want decent jobs and wages and hours and safety.

One result of this business model: Wal-Mart heirs worth as much as bottom 41.5% of American families (LA Times),
The Walton family, heirs to the founders of the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. superchain, are worth nearly as much as the bottom half of American households combined.
The Waltons’ value — $89.5 billion in 2010 – is equal to the worth of the 41.5% of families at the lower end of the income ladder, according to an analysis by Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute. That comes out to 48.8 million households.

Wages So Low They Get

Government Assistance

Walmart pays so little that their employees qualify for government assistance. Walmart employees get Food Stamps, Medicaid and other support from taxpayers, while lobbying to keep minimum wages low. (Conservatives complain about how many people are receiving government help, and complain that Walmart workers are trying to do something about it.)

In many states Walmart employees make up most of the state’s Medicaid recipients. Good Jobs First, in Hidden Taxpayer Costs, lists the taxpayer costs of Walmart’s low wages in state after state. For example, in Alabama Walmart employees had 4,700 children in the state’s Medicaid program. Arkansas had 3,971 Walmart employees and families on public assistance, mostly Medicaid. Skip to Tennessee with 9,617 on TennCare. 

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