As one of the richest families in the world, the Walton family’s attempt to crush unionization of its stores and other operations seems patently obscene given the almost unimaginable amount of money that they have wrung from the cheap labor of those who actually who earned it for them.
Walmart has responded big-time to a raft of first-time labor strikes and slow-downs, according to a confidential memo obtained by The Huffington Post. It was written on Oct. 8, but intended only for salaried workers. It outlined, point-by-point, instructions of how to deal with wage-earning strikers. They are now striking in at least 28 Walmart stores in 12 cities. Again, these efforts mark the very first time in Walmart’s 50-year deplorable labor history that a strike of any kind has actually taken place.
As the largest private employer on earth and despite its public dismissal of the strikes as “publicity stunts,” the leaked memo makes clear that Walmart is very concerned about this matter. For example, Walmart's vice president of communications David Tovar, told the Huffington Post that:
"As you know, activists or union organizers have been trying for years to stop our company’s growth and to damage our relationship with our customers and members. One of the activists’ or union organizers’ tactics is to try to disrupt the business by urging our associates to participate in a walkout or other form of work stoppage.”
To Walmart’s credit, the majority of the memo admonishes managers not to violate workers' legal right to assemble, or engage in non-union labor organizing. Indeed, managers are specifically ordered not to “discipline” employees who engage in walkouts, sit-ins or sick-outs.
This kind of respect of workers’ rights has never been manifested before by Walmart. In fact, just the opposite has been the case. Walmart has always adopted a “no nonsense” approach to workers organizing, and has vigorously opposed unionization from its inception. What gives?
“Walmart probably has in mind that the Obama NLRB [National Labor Relations Board] often sides with unions over management,” said Lance Compa, a labor law professor at Cornell University’s School of Industrial Relations in Ithaca, N.Y. “So they’re being extremely cautious.” In other words, under Republican presidents Walmart felt free to run rough shod over workers and their rights.
This particular strike began last Friday in one of Walmart’s largest stores in Los Angeles. Sixty workers simply walked out. Just last month, however, warehouse workers in Walmart-owned facilities in Illinois and California also struck.
The issues are the same in every store, and reflect the same problems and issues workers have been confronting since the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. Workers are demanding that Walmart end retaliatory practices against employees who attempt to organize; better pay and working conditions -- fair treatment, in other words. If their demands are not met by Nov. 23, “Black Friday,” Walmart workers nationwide will walk out. Black Friday, of course, is the nation’s largest, busiest shopping day of the year.
As intimated above, a strike against Walmart is long overdue. This is a retail company which has overtaken, supplanted, or driven out of business Sears, Carson Pirie Scott, Nordstroms, Goldblatts, you name it (and don't even mention what used to be known as "Mom & Pop" retailers) – all by undercutting to the bare bones other companies’ labor costs.
I have a friend who works for Walmart in Washington state. She works virtually around the clock for barely minimum wage, has no health care, and is docked for any time off. She only sees her family in passing. She makes just enough money to keep her family alive and for her to continue working.
This is, and always has been the true nature of capitalism. Meanwhile, the Waltons live like the aristocrats of 18th century Europe. As is pointed out in the accompanying video, the wealth of Sam Walton's six heirs to his fortune amounts to 41 percent of the wealth of the entire United States population. Six people.
But, under captialism, "there is never enough" -- either for the worker or the capitalist.
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