You can follow the link in the cartoon back to the blog of Mano Singham, a friend and one of my favorite bloggers. Mano wrote late last week on The infuriating arguments against raising the minimum wage. I agree that the arguments are infuriating, but I do not think that raising the minimum wage is a long-term solution.
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"... The Writing On The Wal should be on your radar for at least an occasional visit. Think of it as slightly more relevant than keeping abreast of political campaigns. If you have as much political and economic power as most Americans, it likely is."
Angela Gunn Tech_Space, USA Today.
Rep. Paul Gillmor (R-Ohio).
From Mother Jones:
In case you haven’t noticed, Black Friday isn’t just on Friday anymore. The retail industry’s high-density mass of starry lights, Santa dioramas, and door-buster shopping deals really ought to be renamed the Black Hole—it just keeps sucking up everything around it. That holiday known as Thanksgiving? Pretty much gone. Especially if you work for one of the nation’s largest retailers.
In 2006, Bart Reed, Best Buy Co.’s consumer marketing director, told the Charleston Gazette that the company had decided not to open its stores any earlier than 5 a.m. on Black Friday because it wanted to give its employees a “work-life balance.” Then, five years later, Best Buy moved its Black Friday opening back to Thursday at midnight. This year, for the first time, it will open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
Best Buy is far from alone in its cold-hearted greed.
The National Labor Relations Board General Counsel is issuing a decision today to prosecute Walmart for its widespread violations of its workers’ rights. The decision will provide additional protection for Walmart’s 1.3 million employees when they are speaking out for better jobs at the country’s largest employer.
The Board will prosecute Walmart’s illegal firings and disciplinary actions involving more than 117 workers, including those who went on strike last June, according to the decision.
The decision addresses threats by managers and the company’s national spokesperson for discouraging workers from striking and for taking illegal disciplinary actions against workers who were on legally protected strikes. Workers could be awarded back pay, reinstatement and the reversal of disciplinary actions through the decision; and Walmart could be required to inform and educate all employees of their legally protected rights.
This story just hits too close to home. From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
The storage containers are attractively displayed at the Walmart on Atlantic Boulevard in Canton. The bins are lined up in alternating colors of purple and orange. Some sit on tables covered with golden yellow tablecloths. Others peer out from under the tables.
This isn’t a merchandise display. It’s a food drive – not for the community, but for needy workers.
“Please Donate Food Items Here, so Associates in Need Can Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner,” read signs affixed to the tablecloths.
The food drive tables are tucked away in an employees-only area. They are another element in the backdrop of the public debate about salaries for cashiers, stock clerks and other low-wage positions at Walmart, as workers in Cincinnati and Dayton are scheduled to go on strike Monday.
Is the food drive proof the retailer pays so little that many employees can’t afford Thanksgiving dinner?
Hmmmm… Could be.
The story gained national attention with Bill Moyers & Company picked it up.
…[T]he lower end of our labor market is hopelessly broken, with full-time workers unable to make ends meet.
Wal-Mart’s profits, like those of other low-wage employers, are already subsidized with public assistance that allows their workers to get by. Studies have found that a single Wal-Mart store in Wisconsin costs taxpayers between $900,000 and $1.7 million per year in public benefits.
As I wrote recently of McDonald’s workers’ reliance on the safety net, “This isn’t how a ‘free market’ is supposed to work. These workers are selling their labor for less than the cost of production — less than what it takes to provide basics like food, shelter and health care. Low-wage employers are in turn keeping the cost of their products artificially low by socializing a chunk of their labor expenses.”
That Walmart sucks on the public teat by shifting its healthcare costs to Medicaid is no story for regular readers of The Writing On The Wal, but The Huffington Post yesterday, citing yet another infamous Walmart Healthcare memo, has lit a fire under the story by referencing the rallying cry of The Tea Party: Obamacare.
Alice Hines writes:
Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, plans to begin denying health insurance to newly hired employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week, according to a copy of the company’s policy obtained by The Huffington Post.
Under the policy, slated to take effect in January, Walmart also reserves the right to eliminate health care coverage for certain workers if their average workweek dips below 30 hours — something that happens with regularity and at the direction of company managers.
While Huffington Post did not link to a copy of the memo, the communication is likely not dissimilar to the infamous 2005 memo.
Walmart – the trendsetter for big-box retailers – is also doing well. And it pays its executives handsomely. The total compensation for Walmart’s CEO, Michael Duke, was $18.7 million last year – putting him number 82 on Forbes’ list.
The wealth of the Walton family – which still owns the lion’s share of Walmart stock — now exceeds the wealth of the bottom 40 percent of American families combined, [emphasis mine, JH] according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.
Last week, Walmart announced that the next Wal-Mart dividend will be issued December 27 instead of January 2, after the Bush tax cut for dividends expires — thereby saving the Walmart family as much as $180 million. (According to the online weekly “Too Much,” this $180 million would be enough to give 72,000 Wal-Mart workers now making $8 an hour a 20 percent annual pay hike. That hike would still leave those workers making under the poverty line for a family of three.)
While, strictly speaking, this story I wrote this morning does not address Walmart, I feel that the narrative’s message is applicable.
What does the drama in Washington over the “fiscal cliff” have to do with strikes and work stoppages among America’s lowest-paid workers at Walmart, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Domino’s Pizza?
Tell your representatives in Washington to stop sucking up to very richest of Americans and start acting responsibly for the rest of us.
No. The Yale Law Journal does not mention Walmart, but my journalist’s/political observer’s gut tells me that political, captive-audience workplace meetings like those already utilized by the Koch Brothers cannot be far off for Walmart associates.
Citizens United has wrought widespread changes in the election law landscape. Yet, a lesser-known consequence of this watershed case might have a significant impact in the workplace: it may permit employers to hold political captive audience workplace meetings with their employees. Under Citizens United’s robust conception of corporate political speech, employers may now be able to compel their employees to listen to their political views at such meetings on pain of termination.
Could enough Walmart associates actually walkout on Black Friday to make a dent in Walmart’s billions? Of course not. Even if every store in the United States shut down on that day, sales would resume the next day. The protest is symbolic, but one hell of a gesture.
Unfortunately, this video refuses to embed and function properly. You may still watch the report here.
You stop blogging about something for a few years and suddenly the whole world goes crazy. Walmart, if you’re paying attention, is suffering through the first real strike in its history, which is pretty amazing when you consider that it isn’t even unionized. For those of you who want to discuss this with your friends, that makes it a wildcat strike.
Today, for the first time in Wal-Mart’s 50-year history, workers at multiple stores are out on strike. Minutes ago, dozens of workers at Southern California stores launched a one-day work stoppage in protest of alleged retaliation against their attempts to organize. In a few hours, they’ll join supporters for a mass rally outside a Pico Rivera, Calif., store. This is the latest – and most dramatic – of the recent escalations in the decades-long struggle between organized labor and the largest private employer in the world.
The organization behind these efforts is called Our Walmart. While the United Food and Commercial Workers has helped them get established, this is not a trade union in the conventional sense. It’s more like a worker’s interest group. I actually first ran into these folks last February at an op-ed writing workshop at the University of California Santa Barbara. These brave souls had had enough, and were taking their opposition to Walmart’s anti-worker policies public no matter what the consequences.
It appears that this kind of bravery is contagious. Let’s see how far it goes.
Can a wildcat strike by 13 Walmart associates (sorry, that’s what over a dozen means, if it was more than that give us the precise count and we’ll report the precise number, it can’t be that hard) be effective? It can if it emboldens others to lose their jobs.
[Update No. 2 at 1634 on 10 October -- From Salon:
For the second time in five days – and also the second time in Walmart’s five decades – workers at multiple U.S. Walmart stores are on strike. This morning, workers walked off the job at stores in Dallas, Texas; Miami, Florida; Seattle, Washington; Laurel, Maryland; and Northern, Central, and Southern California. No end date has been announced; some plan to remain on strike at least through tomorrow, when they’ll join other Walmart workers for a demonstration outside the company’s annual investor meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas. Today’s is the latest in a wave of Walmart supply chain strikes without precedent in the United States: From shrimp workers in Louisiana, to warehouse workers in California and Illinois, to Walmart store employees in five states.]
[Update No. 1 at 0737 on 10 October -- From Huffington Post:
The first retail worker strike against Walmart has spread from Los Angeles, where it began last week, to stores in a dozen cities, a union official said Tuesday.
Walmart 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 Walmart 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 minuscule fraction of the 1.4 million who work at Walmart, the world's largest private employer. Until Friday, when about 60 Walmart employees walked off the job for a day in LA, no Walmart 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.
Some striking Walmart associates plan to protest Wednesday at a Walmart annual investor meeting at its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., said a striking worker.
"I make $8.90 an hour and I've worked at Walmart for three years," said Colby Harris, 22, of Dallas. "Everyone at my store lives from check to check and borrows money from each other just to make it through the week." The six heirs to Walmart founder Sam Walton, meanwhile, are worth $89.5 billion, or as much as the bottom 41.5 percent of Americans combined.]
If workers want to change Walmart, this is where they must be prepared to go.
With Strikes Protesting America’s Largest Retailer Expanding
Workers at Walmart in Laurel, Maryland, Walk Off The Job With Community Support
For the First Time in History, Walmart Faces Strikes among Workers in its Stores, Warehouses and Distribution Centers It Controls
Local Community Supporters Join Striking Workers Across the Country to Call on Walmart and Chairman Rob Walton to Stop its Illegal Retaliation and Attempts to Silence Workers who have Spoken Out Against Poor Working Conditions that are Hurting the American Economy
LAUREL, MD – This morning, at the Walmart in Laurel, MD, workers and their allies stood together, as over a dozen associates went on strike to protest Walmart’s attempt to silence workers who speak out for better pay, staffing and working conditions. “We have had enough”, said Alan Forrest, a striking employee from the Laurel store, who lives in DC and has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the store himself, “we are no longer afraid and are standing together with our fellow associates from across the country to say we will not be intimidated as we stand up for respect.”
As striking workers from Walmart’s stores, contracted warehouses and distribution centers embark to the retail giant’s headquarters in Arkansas during its Annual Financial Analysts meeting, communities across the country are showing their support for changes at more than 650 Walmart stores across the country.
“We cannot stand by while the country’s largest employer tries to silence workers who stand up for a better future for their families,” said Pastor Edwin Jones, of Living Faith Baptist Church and International Ministries in Washington, DC. Pastor Jones, along with communities across the country have been calling for changes through a Unified Call to Change Walmart. “We are here to tell Walmart the company must change the way it treats workers and our community. Our city and our country need big profitable corporations like Walmart and billionaires like the Waltons to take responsibility for rebuilding our economy – and stop squeezing the middle class to the breaking point.”
Striking warehouse workers work for a company working for Walmart, but the distinction is a difference that makes no difference. Working conditions for warehouse workers are the 21st century equivalent of those endured by coal miners in Germinal and Wigan Pier.
From The Guardian:
A group of workers at a warehouse that supplies Walmart stores have gone on strike to protest what they say are dangerous labour conditions and retaliation by management against employees who complain about them.
Organisers for the activist group Warehouse Workers United, which is working in the booming warehouse industry that has grown up in the Inland Empire region of southern California, say at least 20 workers had walked off the job and were protesting outside the gates of a warehouse run by transport firm NFI.
Labour abuses in the Inland Empire’s warehouse industry have recently been highlighted in various media and academic reports. Experts say the industry, which is thought to employ some 110,000 people, is often staffed by poor, immigrant workers who toil for long hours with little pay and in unsafe conditions. One recent survey by the WWU and the University of California interviewed 101 workers and found that 83 of them said they had suffered a job-related illness.
The striking workers at the NFI facility have filed an official complaint with California labour authorities on conditions that they say show inadequate safety protection, not enough access to drinking water in warehouses that can reach 125F on a hot day, and a management culture that bullies them.
I have read reports suggesting that the current strike by Chicago teachers is hurting the Democratic Party and President Barack Hussein Obama.
I say fuck them both because, after courtinng the labor vote in 2008 with promises of full support for the Employee Free Choice Act, both have chosen to fuck labor.