Streams

Opinion: Let's Support Walmart Workers Striking on Black Friday

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 01:31 PM

walmart, wal mart, mobile alabama (Dystopos/flickr)

As the statistics show, Walmart is the largest private employer in the world, and follows only the US and Chinese armies in its overall workforce. However, it got there the old-fashion way: Relying on the public to help it out.

Walmart wages are so low that employees routinely qualify for food stamps. Their benefits are so meager - and efforts to deny workers' benefits so successful - that many of the staff rely on public healthcare assistance.

If you think that's the only way this company can stay open, think again. The Walton family's wealth equals that of the lower 42 percent of all American households. The only shared sacrifice at Walmart is the sacrifice shared by workers whose situation is bleak, alternatives are slim and right to organize constantly obstructed.

With all that lined up against them, having to work Thanksgiving to participate in Walmart's celebration of excessive consumerism seems like the least of their problems.

But it's this Black Friday where workers will make their most high-profile stand to date. Following the strike of Walmart warehouse employees, retail staff will strike and protest across the country. And they deserve our support.

For one, with a workforce of 1.4 million workers, chances are you know or are related to one of the many employees who deserve something to be more thankful for this holiday. These folks are your family, your community and your neighbors.

Secondly, it benefits all of us to see Walmart workers better compensated. It lessens the load on public assistance, and turns back a race-to-the-bottom mentality that plagues the retail world. If Walmart increases its wages and benefits, other companies will have to do the same, just to compete.

Furthermore, when corporations respect, listen to and engage with workers, we see improvements across society. We see an increase in workplace safety standards, consumer safety and store conditions. We receive better customer service. Weekends are a result of a previous generation of businesses and workers collaborating.

We live in a world of big problems that need collaboration to address: partnerships across industry, across country, between public and private enterprises and with bosses and workers both at the table. We need that kind of collaboration even more than we need cheap prices at big box stores.

So we need to collaborate with the workers as well. Send a message to Walmart that their management needs to meet with workers. Donate to worker relief funds. Don't head to Walmart on Black Friday.

And when you realize which of your family members is affected by low wages and stagnant prospects, support them if they choose to strike - it will make everyone more grateful at Thanksgiving table.

Tags:

More in:

The Morning Brief

Enter your email address and we’ll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.

Comments [31]

Marcello from Brooklyn

Hmmm!... So much non-sense and so little time to address it...
Let's see... Where to start?....

“Isn't the real reason Walmart is being targeted because of all the potential union dues from over a million employees that could be paid to unions and then contributed to 'progressives' candidates?”
Uhh... I don't know!... Is that the reason?... Unlike you, I don't jump to conclusions. I do have a PERSONAL OPINION on why Walmart is “targeted” (meaning that it finds itself in the news a lot) and that reason is its sheer size (that, as I mentioned in my previous post, makes it play a unique role in the marketplace) and its very un-generous compensation package which contributes to its high profitability.
Does this surge in unionization within Walmart's labor force translates into a fund raising for progressive politicians? Again, I don't know!... It has't happened yet and therefore, it doesn't exist yet! I like to talk about FACTS meaning things that actually exist. Walmart unions contributing to progressive candidates might become a reality in the future, just like the Citizens' United Supreme Court sentence, allows corporations to donate unlimited contributions to conservative candidates.
Is that a good thing? No!... In my opinion politicians should act in the general interest not being in the pockets of the highest bidder, be them unions or corporations.
But the bottom line is this: why, according to you, corporations such as Walmart are justified in pursuing their own self-interest while the people making up Walmart's labor force are nor justified to pursue their own interests?
CONTINUES BELOW

Nov. 26 2012 11:19 PM
Marcello from Brooklyn

“If this means thousands of people are fired from Walmart and the rock bottom prices people increasingly depend on go up, well then so be it?”
I don't even know what that means!...
If Walmart fires people, that lowers its labor cost and, therefore, there will be no need to change its price structure. Moreover, you have it backwards! The “rock bottom prices people increasingly depend on” are due to the pitiful wages companies like Walmart pay! In this sense, Walmart, with its low prices, is not the REMEDY to the problem but the CAUSE of the problem.

“Fired Walmart employees can then go on food stamps and other government assistance thus increasing dependence on the government even more taking us beyond 20 trillion in debt eventually.”
Well... Yes!..
If people loose their job and they still have to survive and support their families, then, chances are, they are going to look at every option available to them to stay afloat, including using food stamps and unemployment insurance. Wouldn't anyone with a brain do the same thing? Wouldn't you?...
About the “dependence on the government” I just want to remind you that one of the premises of Justin Krebs' post is exactly that Walmart exploits public benefits by counting on government’s assistance to be there to fill the gap of its low wages and non-existing benefits.

“The ultimate goal of statists in the federal government and its biggest union the Democratic Party is to force people to be dependent on government out of necessity thus growing their business where there are no competitors.”
Really?...Is that what the ultimate goal of “statists” is?
Yes!...I am sure that civil servants such as teachers, policemen, firefighters and soldiers choose their careers with the purpose “to force people to be dependent on government out of necessity thus growing their business where there are no competitors”. I have met many teachers and policemen who “want to grow their business” by forcing “people to be dependent on government”. I mean... who wouldn't jump at the opportunity to make a fortune on a teacher's salary while, at the same time, “forcing people to become dependent on government?”.
Unlike CEOs, who choose to live on such meager compensations for no other reward than the privilege of serving their communities and their fellow citizens! It's a no-brainer.... Just like you...

Nov. 26 2012 11:17 PM
listener

Despite the microeconomic and macroeconomic dimensions, isn't the real reason Walmart is being targeted is because of all the potential union dues from over a million employees that could be paid to unions and then contributed to "progressives" candidates? If this means thousands of people are fired from Walmart and the rock bottom prices people increasingly depend on go up,
well then so be it?
Fired Walmart employees can then go on food stamps and other government assistance thus increasing dependence on the government even more taking us beyond 20 trillion in debt eventually.....and then what?
The President and the Democratic Party controlled US Senate have provided no budget while spending trillions and were just rewarded with re-election.

The ultimate goal of a private business is to persuade people to freely choose and depend on their product and reject their competitors.
The ultimate goal of statists in the federal government and its biggest union the Democratic Party is to force people to be dependent on government out of necessity thus growing their business where there are no competitors. Unlike high ranking politicians, the CEO cannot borrow his business into bankruptcy with no budget and then play accounting tricks without the consequence of a serious legal challenge.

Nov. 26 2012 10:12 AM
Marcello from Brooklyn

During this Thanksgiving season, I am thankful for listener's ubiquitous comments on the WNYC blog site since he provides irreplaceable insight into the conservative mind and its utter inability to understand reality.
“Will progressives not be happy until Walmart ends up firing hundreds of its staff and raises prices...” writes our resident conservative.
The assumption here is a pillar of right-wing ideology which can be summarized as follows: since Walmart is a large employer, providing jobs and therefore expanding the economy, than we should all keep quiet about its business model which consists in keeping its operating costs low by paying very low wages and benefits. By doing that, Walmart manages to offer its products at a very low price thus becoming the retailer of choice (or rather “of necessity”) for the social classes that make up its own labor force. At the same time, by exercising its huge buying power over manufacturers, Walmart is able to influence the condition of its supply chain (located mostly in China NOT “thanks to Obama”). Therefore, Walmart is a company that has subverted the basic dynamics of Economics because in a healthy marketplace, efficiency is achieved through an active dialectic relation between supply and demand. But Walmart's business model is one where a private company ends up preventing social emancipation by keeping its employees at the edge of poverty and thus creating its own demand for its cheap products. In light of this, Walmart effectively steps out of the microeconomic dimension and into the macroeconomic one with all the social implications that this implies.
The negotiation of wages and work conditions, which is the core of Krebs' post, is just a part of that on-going healthy relation between demand (for labor) and supply.
What we have here is a company that is (rightly so...) trying to do what companies do: minimize their costs and maximize their profits.
Their employees, on the other end, are also doing what they can be expected to do: improve their wages and working conditions. There is nothing controversial about this.
Of course one could argue that, from a purely moral perspective, to maximize profits so that the Walton family can further increase its wealth (that, at the moment, is comparable to the GDP of a small country) is not the same than offering better wages to somebody teetering at the edge of poverty.
The idea that our listener implicitly advocates: that we should just keep quiet and be happy with the way Walmart operates because they are doing us all favor, is rooted in the conservative assumption that they are a business, they create jobs and expand the economy and that THAT is the ultimate goal of a society and the purpose of humans on Earth.
If that is the case, then why don't we re-introduce slavery? After all that is an extremely cost-effective way to run a business...

Nov. 25 2012 04:05 PM
listener

Will progressives not be happy until Walmart ends up firing hundreds of its staff and raises prices and then the left can chalk up another victory for the little guy and move like locusts to the next enemy of the people we are all supposed to despise?
Small, medium and large business are being hurt by this ideology and poor people will be hurt the most.
Do we really have to crash the economy for people to understand this? Who will be the next group we are supposed to hate and pander to which of course leaves a massive government and its unaccountable cronies to appoint themselves as well paid referees.

Since China is well on its way to overtake the United States as a new superpower thanks to Obama, go back and look at the disastrous history of China's Cultural Revolution and Great Leap...........Forward. Oh, that word.

Nov. 24 2012 08:15 AM
ron from PITTSBURGH,PA

do you people think that if you closed one day you will go broke? bull crap let employees enjoy time with their family for god's sake the almighty dollar can wait for a day all you are ARE MONEY HUNGRY BASTARDS god forbid that you can't deal without a day of screwing the common folk in that case just stay open 24-7 the economy would then pick up cause you would have to hire more people less would be on unemployment i was a union worker for over 50 yrs sure the union would help you in CERTAIN times but this crap of not letting people stay home with their families has to STOP!!!!! LET ME MAKE THIS PERFECTLY CLEAR LET WORKERS SPEND TIME WITH THEIR FAMILIES AND SCREW YOUR ALL MIGHTY $$$$$

Nov. 23 2012 01:00 PM
Lucia from Tucson, Arizona

It is possible for an employer to provide a living wage (or better), health care, education, career development and more. As a business owner I knew that if my employees were treated with respect and dignity I would benefit in the end and I did benefit. After 20 years the time came to close my business due to a family crisis. All of my staff was sad because we had grown close like a family and respected each other. We also knew that supportive workplaces that pay at least a living wage and provide a positive, respectful work environment are not always easy to find. I was not a union shop not because I objected but because my employees didn't call for one because I provided good wages, benefits and an environment that unions usually seek for their members. As for those union bashing comments posted on this page I can only say that you should read your history. If not for unions many of the workplace benefits that are enjoyed today by so many workers across this land were fought for and won by unions. I am the daughter of a proud, life-long union member. To pay respect to my father's memory and all hard working Americans my entire family, including my 84year old mom, will be walking the picket lines in support of the Wal-Mart strikers.

Nov. 22 2012 11:15 AM
grace from mississippi

walmart employees aren't just whining or being lazy. this is nonsense. These people are trying to make the company they work for better, they are risking their employment for this. They are risking everything for the company to improve.

kudos

Nov. 22 2012 01:21 AM
arthur from trinidad colorado

I want to place my comment Mr Walton said his employees where the biggest asset to his business and from the time this wonderful man passed the employees are not listened to or cared adout. The store I'm writing about is Trinidad Colorado 0962 I was a customer one night and was leaving and heard the Mgr say they had a bomb threat and the employees where never told about it or the customers and she said she did not think it was beneificial to let any one know. I told her she was not GOD and had no right doing this to people.When I called home office I was told the store should have been closed and fully searched and that I would get a call from the store Mgr would call me to discuss this and did not ever call me. I have went and go to this store alot and spend lots of money the night store Mgr Leslie is a very rude and a noxious to customers and very badly worse to the employees she is very degrading to them and treats them like slaves and gives them no accomplishment remarks ever and I fully feel that she needs to be taught how to treat people and understand how they are to be treated and respected. On top of all the employees are having to work with broken equipment with the chance of getting hurt and causing more stress on the employees and making them work twice as hard. Safety is a huge issue at this store and needs Mgment that dregades there associates dignity and respect. Many times when in the store you here of people stealing and they are told they can't do nothing about it they have to let them go. Many times when in the store I feel there are many things going on the Mgrs are over looking and it is very unfair to ones that work hard and never get a bonus check or any kind of recognition at all for the hard work they really do. I feel that unethical things are going on in this store.

Nov. 21 2012 11:06 PM
listener

Walmart.."follows only the US and Chinese armies in its overall workforce".

At least people have the freedom to go on strike against Walmart unlike the other two examples.
They also are free to quit Walmart unlike the other two examples.

That is something "progressives" will find out about Obamacare. There is no strikes or quitting with
a massive federal program. The state is your boss and we must do as we are told.

Nov. 21 2012 08:59 PM
carol

This is not about unions, its not about ungrateful employees, its about standing up for the family. My children work hard and i dont see them much but i am glad their employers give them off for Thanksgiving so we can be together. My 84 yr old mother has been waiting for an occasion where we are all off and together to take a family picture!

Nov. 21 2012 06:41 PM
JP from New York

I am in total support of the Wal-Mart strike, and hope the associates can make a difference by their actions. Wal-Mart certainly does not care about the American Family as they have essentially shut down family businesses throughout the United States (with the help of government subsidies), and are now open on Thanksgiving Day.

They also offer extremely inferior health insurance policies which actually force their workers to use federal policies instead, which in turn makes our taxes increase.

There is so much more as well, and I will certainly sacrifice buying low-priced goods to support the big picture. Boycott Wal-Mart and send them a message.

Nov. 21 2012 06:30 PM
Jeff N from Florida

I started pushing carts and ultimately retired from Wal-Mart.I worked plenty of lousy days and shifts over the years, and my family is now thankful for it.

Nov. 21 2012 06:19 PM
hoosierpete

I have no problem siding with the workers and honoring their picket line; but I do however have a problem if they are being manipulated by a union. Unions are vicious and destructive and are led by self-serving individuals.

Nov. 21 2012 06:16 PM
Olds442 from Oklahoma

I am 100% behind all the Walmart employees. Walmart has been walking over the back of these people for too long. Some people don't have alot of the same the same options that some of other people do. I bet if the shoe was on the other foot, you anti union people would be sing a different tune! Back-off and go shop at Kmart

Nov. 21 2012 06:03 PM
Aaron from Ohio

Go to Netflix and watch "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price"

Nov. 21 2012 05:50 PM
Jeff N from Florida

I'm thinking if Wal-Mart can do without the strikers on Black Friday, they can probably do without them....

Nov. 21 2012 05:48 PM
b

So many people commenting about something they know nothing about.Telling people to find a job and that they are lazy haha

Google anything having to do with walmart (other than a sale) and it will be a lawsuit.

I just searched these out of curiousity.
"costco lawsuit" 3,310,000 results
"sears lawsuit" 3,140,000 results
"walmart lawsuit" 8,790,000 results

Searching "walmart lawsuit" gets you over twice as many hits as sears/costco combined.

Some of you people must have no idea what is going on.

Nov. 21 2012 05:38 PM
Aaron in Ohio from Ohio

First off, as a proud union member, I would like to say to all of the people who have made the ignorant anti-union statements on here, if you don't think employees should have the right to bargain with employers for better pay and benefits, then you need to pack your bags and move to China, 2nd I have worked for Wal*Mart in the past and they have been threatening to fire employees who speek with union reps for years (just in case you don't know, THAT IS ILLEGAL AND UNETHICAL) 3rd In the time period that I worked for Wal*Mart they bragged about how they sold and will continue to sell more products made right here in the U.S.A. (try to find something made in the U.S. there now) 4th If youthink the unions don't help the little guy, I am living proof that you are wrong, before I got into the Union job I am in I did the same work I do now for less than half the pay, no insurance and no retirement plan, now I'll be able to retire at a decent age and enjoy my golden years when I get there.

Nov. 21 2012 05:37 PM
kathy from washington

I was brought up if you take a job you have no reason to complain because they did not make you take it. When you are hired you are told what you will make and what hours and what benefits. Quit complaining. Grow up!!!!

Nov. 21 2012 05:26 PM
BOB

FIRST OFF JEFF.....I VOTED FOR THE PRESIDENT.... AS A MAJORITY OF AMERICANS DID...HENCE...HE REMAINED PRESIDENT. SECONDLY I DO NOT BELIEVE IN UNIONS NOR DID I MENTION SUPPORTING A UNION-THEY ARE NO LONGER NEEDED. NOR AM I A WALMART EMPLOYEE. I WAS FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO WORK MYSELF THOUGH SCHOOL AND HAVE AN EDUCATION AND A FAIRLY GOOD CAREER. WHAT I SAYING IS THAT A MAJOR CORPORATION IS BASICALLY RUNNING A VERY PROFITABLE BUSINESS OFF THE BACKS OF THE LESS FORTUNATE AND WE ARE ALLOWING IT TO HAPPEN. I AGREE IF PEOPLE DO NOT LIKE THEIR JOB THEY CAN MOVE ON AND GET ANOTHER....BUT WHAT HAPPENS ANOTHER UNFORTUNATE INDIVIDUALS FILLS THE SPOT AND THE CORPORATIONS CONTINUE TO PROFIT AND WE AS TAXPAYERS FOOT THE BILL FOR THEM. MY TAX BRACKET IS ROUGHLY AT THE 40% MARK SO I MORE THAN PAY MY FAIR SHARE. I PERSONALLY HAVE NEVER RECEIVED ANY TYPE OF AIDE...NEVER BEEN UNEMPLOYED.... I AM A FIRST GENERATION AMERICAN AND HAVE NEVER BEEN ASHAMED TO BE HISPANIC.

Nov. 21 2012 05:24 PM
Leanne Wheless from Texas

For the Walmart employees that walk there are millions of Americans looking for a job that will gladly take your place. Unions only care about the union they could careless about the shills that work for them. Case in point Hostess.

Nov. 21 2012 04:50 PM
Jeffr Jones from NJ

To Bob- "We as Americans Will Stand Together"? Stand together to do what? Destroy America, destroy businesses? Do you and the rest of the free loaders think that the end result will be that Wal-Mart or any other corporation will suffer? The only people that will benefit will be the union bosses.

Look at what happened with Hostess. Did you know that a delivery driver cannot deliver Hostess cupcakes if he is a Wonder bread driver? Even if the delivery is going to the same store? Does this make sense? Lets pay two drivers to deliver to the same store because of the "f"ing unions.

You are complete idiot. You so stupid and blind to realize that the unions are out to get that extra cash from each employee every pay period?

Wal-Mart or any other employer in the US is not forcing ANY employee to work at there.

The problem with America is that it is filled with lazy, free loading minorities that are not skilled in anything except taking from others. This is why they voted for Obama, give me, give me, give me. They are all to stupid to see that the Unions and Democrats want to keep "US" minorities down and dependent on them.

They want higher pay, GO BACK TO SCHOOL and get an education. Quit your bitching, get some pride, and make a difference for your race. I am ashamed to be Hispanic.

Nov. 21 2012 04:46 PM
BOB

THIS IS A PERFECT OPPORTUNITY TO SHOW EVERYONE THAT WE AS AMERICANS WILL STAND TOGETHER.....THERE IS MORE INVOLVED HERE THAN JUST AN EMPLOYER UNDERPAYING IT'S EMPLOYEES. THEY ARE RELYING ON US THE AMERICAN TAX PAYER TO PROVIDE THEIR WORKERS WITH HEALTHCARE AND IN LOTS OF CASES WE MAKE UP THE DIFFERENCE IN SALARIES BY PROVIDING FOOD STAMPS AND OTHER FORMS OF AIDE WHILE THE OWNERS AND OFFICERS OF THE COMPANY GROSS GREATER PROFITS. LETS NOT SHOP AT WALMART FRIDAY AND SEND THEM A MESSAGE....REMEMBER IT IS CALLED BLACK FRIDAY DUE TO THE FACT THAT LOTS OF COMPANIES PROFIT OR LOSS FOR THE YEAR DEPENDS ON THIS DAY.

Nov. 21 2012 04:22 PM
Chad from wi

except if your boycotting wal-mart you should also shopko and target there wages and benefits are nearly the same

Nov. 21 2012 04:19 PM
Blane from Texas

Americans for American!Boycott walmart.

Nov. 21 2012 04:14 PM
terry

If you don't like your job..nobody is making you work there.....it is still the land of opportunity......until the Democrats destroy democracy and the constituion.

Nov. 21 2012 04:12 PM
Democracy Scott from Wisconsin

I support Walmart strikers! SOLIDARITY!

Nov. 21 2012 03:54 PM
Sally from Mobile, Al. 36695

On the wal-mart strike, I feel for the employees as I know they work hard. In Mobile, most of the registers are not even open. Probably because of low wages. Also I want to say, I've shopped in Wal-mart for years, for everything, and groceries as well. I rarely come out of there spending less than $80., sometimes $100. The groceries have gone sky high, so now for Thanksgiving I shopped in Winn-Dixie and came out spending half of that. So something isn't right. If they are not taking care of their employees, then the guys at the top are getting paid a bunch. Things need to change. From now on, I will also shop in Winn-Dixie and other stores to compare prices.

Nov. 21 2012 02:38 PM
james

give a raise to the workers

Nov. 21 2012 02:31 PM
Peter Dennaro

Union!

Nov. 21 2012 02:21 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Sponsored

About It's A Free Blog

Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a blog, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Supported by

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public.  Learn more at revsonfoundation.org.

Authors

Feeds

Supported by