So an Ohio Walmart started a food drive among its employees to help its lower income workers get a decent Thanksgiving. “Please Donate Food Items Here so Associates in Need Can Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner,” reads a sign in the clerk’s break room. Someone snapped a photo on their cell phone, put it on-line and it went viral. The image underscores what Walmart itself knows: One million of its employees earn less than $25,000 dollars a year – impossible to live on in Ohio, much less Los Angeles, where an average apartment rents for $1,480 a month.
But did you know that L.A. County also leads the nation in “food insecurity”? That’s the current euphemism that means people are likely to go hungry. A national network of food banks estimated that 650,000 children in our county risk going without enough to eat. These are kids who live with parents or guardians who cannot afford a balanced meal or who skip dinner themselves to feed their children.
This Thanksgiving, Walmart decided to show its workers that it’s concerned for their families. First, the retailer required that employees work not only on Black Friday, but also Thanksgiving night this year as, once more, it plans to start its Black Friday sale Thursday evening. Second, Walmart knew that because its workers make such low wages and are often on food stamps, the company decided to collect canned food for them.
Yes, the food box scandal that you’ve read in the news over the past few days is true. Walmart workers have been scraping together food donations for – themselves! Even The Colbert Report covered the disgrace. All of this comes on the heels of Walmart workers having to strike due to retaliation for speaking out against low pay ($8.81 an hour!), insufficient hours and unaffordable health care.
Walmart’s 1.3 million workers won a big victory Monday when the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the retail giant had broken the law by firing and harassing employees who spoke out—and in some cases went on strike—to protest the company’s poverty pay and abusive labor practices.
The federal agency will prosecute Walmart’s illegal firings and disciplinary actions involving more than 117 workers, including those who went on strike last June as part of a growing movement of company employees. The ruling is likely to accelerate the burgeoning protest movement among Walmart employees, upset with low pay, stingy benefits, arbitrary work schedules and part-time jobs.
Over the past year, protests against the world’s largest private employer have escalated, led by OUR Walmart, a nationwide network of Walmart workers. Last fall, the group announced that it would hold rallies outside Walmart stores in dozens of cities on the day after Thanksgiving—the busiest shopping day of the year,
Walmart just reported shrinking sales for a third straight quarter. What’s going on? Explained William S. Simon, the CEO of Walmart, referring to the company’s customers, “their income is going down while food costs are not. Gas and energy prices, while they’re abating, I think they’re still eating up a big piece of the customer’s budget.”
Walmart’s CEO gets it. Most of Walmart’s customers are still in the Great Recession, grappling with stagnant or declining pay. So, naturally, Walmart’s sales are dropping.
But what Walmart’s CEO doesn’t get is that a large portion of Walmart’s customers are lower-wage workers who are working at places like … Walmart. And Walmart, not incidentally, refuses to raise its median wage (including its army of part-timers) of $8.80 an hour.
Walmart isn’t your average mom-and-pop operation. It’s the largest employer in America. As such, it’s the trendsetter for millions of other employers of low-wage workers.
(Note: Jason Motlagh writes about the lack of compensation for the families of Rana Plaza victims for The Nation, where this post first appeared. Republished with permission.)
This week United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) is holding demonstrations at more than 30 colleges and universities across the country as part of an International Week of Action to End Deathtraps commemorating the six-month anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh.
Students and workers are demanding that apparel brands who produce apparel for U.S. universities sign on to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a legally binding agreement now signed by over 100 brands and retailers, promising greater protection for workers and a voice for unions in addressing deadly working conditions. To date, not a single college-producing apparel company has signed the agreement. Bangladeshi unions are also holding demonstrations at the site of Rana Plaza collapse.
In a new report, University of Southern California professor and warehousing and logistics expert Juan D. de Lara reveals that the local warehousing industry is relying on low-paid, temporary workers at serious risk to the ongoing economic health of the region.
De Lara takes a closer look at labor and census statistics to unpack actual warehouse worker wages.
“It should be clear that most blue collar warehouse workers earn far less than the average logistics annual wage of $45,000,” De Lara writes in Work: Path to the Middle Class or Road to Economic Insecurity?, released by USC’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equality. “Any conversation about the future of the logistics industry as a key driver in the Inland Empire’s regional economy should begin with an honest assessment of blue-collar vs. white collar wages.”
While the average logistics wage is often taken at face value,
Out of 300 million Americans, a few thousand wield disproportionate economic and political influence because of their positions at the pinnacle of America’s corporate and media establishments or their roles as political allies (or puppets) of the corporate ruling class. C. Wright Mills described this group in his 1956 book, The Power Elite; G. William Domhoff has updated this analysis in his book, Who Rules America? (now in its seventh edition), and Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson have described how the power elite wields its influence in Winner-Take-All Politics.
Many of them have overlapping memberships on the boards of the largest corporations, business lobby groups, universities and think tanks, foundations and media conglomerates. They are not part of a conspiracy. They do not meet secretly to plot America’s future. And they do disagree with each other on some issues,
Dear Walmart Management,
I am the pastor at Fairview Community Church in Costa Mesa, California. A few months ago, on June 25, 2013, along with six fellow pastors from around the nation, I visited the Lakewood Walmart with the hope of discussing the retaliations that have taken place nationwide following a worker strike and demonstration in Bentonville, Arkansas. We came to beseech you to reinstate Jovani Gomez, an associate of the Lakewood Walmart who we believe was fired unjustly following his participation in that action.
We were unable to discuss Mr. Gomez’s case, or any of the firings or retaliations. We were hardly able to discuss anything at all. Instead, we were met inside the store just a few feet from the entrance by one of the store’s managers, who made it clear that we were not welcome inside Walmart (he actually stated as much). Incredibly, this manager then called the police on seven peaceful pastors who simply wished to discuss Walmart’s recent actions toward their employees.
(This post first appeared on The Nation and is republished with permission.)
Nine fired workers and a current employee were arrested around 2:30 p.m. Thursday after locking arms and sitting in front of the entrance to a Washington, D.C., Walmart office. The planned act of civil disobedience concluded a noon rally at which workers announced a Labor Day deadline for Walmart to raise wages and reinstate workers they allege were fired for their activism. Twenty workers who joined a June strike by the labor group OUR Walmart have since been terminated; another 50-some have been otherwise disciplined by Walmart.
“Hopefully it opens Walmart’s eyes and lets them know that this is just the beginning,” OUR Walmart activist Barbara Collins told The Nation prior to her arrest. If Walmart doesn’t meet the Labor Day deadline, she said yesterday, “then we’re going to give them a lot more actions,
This Walmart low-prices, low-wages thing isn’t working out so well — even for Walmart.
The company released its quarterly numbers last week, and they weren’t pretty. Same-store sales declined by 0.3 percent, and the company lowered its earnings-per-share forecast. Bad news wasn’t limited to Walmart. At the low end of the retail consumer market, Kohl’s reported similarly bad news; Macy’s, a little higher up the food chain, lowered its earnings forecast as well.
While Americans with money are boosting both the housing and auto markets, the growing number of Americans without are curtailing their shopping. As Douglas McMillon, chief executive of Walmart International, noted last week, “When we do see good things in the economy, sometimes they don’t immediately flow through to a paycheck. Remember how the average American lives.”
And who signs more paychecks than any private-sector employer on the planet?
Writing on the building outside the Palmer House Hotel in downtown Chicago says “igniting passions since 1871.” The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) held its 40th anniversary conference at the hotel, igniting the passions of protesters who came out to inveigh against ALEC’s agenda during a demonstration August 8.
Birthed in Chicago, ALEC first met in September 1973. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit it has tax-exempt status. ALEC “also develops model bills and resolutions on economic issues,” as the organization’s website states, noting that those bills “can be helpful resources” for legislators pursuing privatization of public services.
To kick off the conference, ALEC arranged to have British Parliament member Conor Burns speak at a leadership dinner August 6 before major meeting events the following three days. An ALEC meeting program notes Burns’ relationship with the late Margaret Thatcher, renowned for gutting public projects. He reportedly “visited Lady Thatcher at her home every Sunday evening for drinks [and] developed a close bond.”
Not only does Walmart set the wholesale market price for many of the products and food commodities sold in its stores, it also apparently commands the unswerving political loyalty of some of the nonprofit groups that the retail giant underwrites. The Nation’s Lee Fang writes about how a trio of interns ran afoul of OCA Asian Pacific American Advocates (formerly known as the Organization of Chinese Americans), a prominent Asian American civil rights group, for displaying disrespect to Walmart — a large OCA funder. The story played out in Las Vegas last month during OCA’s annual convention, when one intern was rebuked by OCA staff for criticizing Walmart’s drive to open a grocery market in Los Angeles’ historic Chinatown. She and two colleagues were later booted out of the convention when a private video they’d made of flipping off Walmart made its way onto a public Facebook page.
The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it’s referred to, is going to dramatically change the way we live our lives and balance our budgets. The largest group of beneficiaries is working people who are currently not covered by their employer yet don’t earn enough to buy health insurance on their own, including a large number of food service and retail workers. These workers currently are forced to pay out of pocket, forgo medical treatment or rely on public health clinics.
You’d imagine these workers would be jumping for joy at the thought of a new federal law requiring their employers to help them meet a critical human need. Unfortunately, there is little recourse for these workers for the next two years. While most of the healthcare dialogue has revolved around the individual requirement, the recent announcement that the employer mandate will be pushed back until 2015 has quietly fallen off the radar.
Every year Walmart holds a combination shareholder meeting and pep rally to whip up enthusiasm and promote its image as a good investment and a good corporate citizen. These huge events have the quality of a religious revival meeting, including testimonials and music to keep its stockholders and employees (whom Walmart calls “associates”) enthralled. Women’s Wear Daily called last month’s event, with 14,000 shareholders and employees, “a high-octane, entertainment-filled spectacle with moments devoted to business.”
The company always invites celebrities to entertain and mingle. At last month’s gathering in Bentonville, Arkansas — the company’s headquarters — singers Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, John Legend, and Prince Royce performed, Hugh Jackman emceed, and Tom Cruise cruised the crowd, then mounted the stage and said: “I’ve wanted to come here for quite some time, actually because the culture you have here is like no other. I truly admire your company. [It’s] a role model for how business can address some of the biggest issues facing our world.”
I am a single mother of four. Every day my heart aches with worry about my kids and their futures. Today I went on strike to protest retaliation. I did it for my children.
I work in a warehouse moving Walmart merchandise and I make $8 an hour. In a good week I earn $300. Our rent alone is $800 a month. Going on strike means no paycheck, but your support can help us during this time.
The math doesn’t add up. My coworkers and I cannot support our families on these wages, but when we have spoken up about the poverty we face and the dangerous working conditions inside the warehouse, we have been targeted. We’ve had enough. The warehouse managers follow us around, they have installed cameras to watch us constantly,
Breaking News: Warehouse workers who move suitcases are on strike at Walmart luggage and apparel subcontractor Olivet International. The bulk of the Riverside County facility’s inventory is sold by Walmart and the strikers hold the retail chain equally culpable for the poor working conditions employees claim exist at Olivet. The work stoppage is aimed at retaliation allegedly suffered by workers who drew public attention to safety risks at the warehouse.
According to a post by Josh Eidelson that appeared today on the Nation‘s website:
Today’s strike is backed by Warehouse Workers United, a project of the Change to Win union federation. It comes two months after 21 Olivet warehouse employees filed a formal complaint with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, alleging rampant safety violations: emergency exits blocked by boxes and merchandise; forklift brakes, seatbelts, and horns that don’t work;
Has the New York Times turned into a latter-day Daily Worker, or are labor conditions in America becoming so bad that even the national paper of record is demanding social justice? A look at this past Sunday’s Section A revealed no fewer than three stories delving into the predatory practices of employers and financial players.
The front page led with an eye-opening investigation into how investment banks– including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley – have reaped billions from stockpiling commodities in giant warehouses across the country.
The story, written by David Kocieniewski, focused on 27 mega-warehouses holding aluminum located around Detroit. (You remember Detroit – the city whose retired employees’ pensions are now threatened under bankruptcy proceedings, as banks and other creditors are being escorted to the front of the collection line?) The Times found that by needlessly shifting thousands of palettes of aluminum ingots from one warehouse to another,
Americans believe in speaking up when something is wrong and working together to improve their lives. The freedom of speech and freedom of association are core American values and basic rights enshrined by our nation’s Constitution. Yet while our basic rights as Americans are protected under the law, Walmart doesn’t think these laws apply to them.
In recent weeks, Walmart has escalated its illegal campaign of punishing workers who exercise their right to come together and speak out for change. In attempting to silence those workers who speak out, the company has fired or disciplined more than 60 workers.
The recent string of firings comes on the heels of last month’s protest in front of Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. In late May, members of OUR Walmart held a nationwide strike and Ride for Respect caravan protesting Walmart’s unfair labor practices (ULP), which took them on a bus ride from Southern California to Bentonville,
How are men doing in our anemic economic recovery? David Brooks, after discussing his favorite Western movie, argues in his latest column, Men on the Threshold, that men are “unable to cross the threshold into the new economy.” Though he’d probably argue that he’s talking about generational changes, he focuses on a few data points from the current recession, including that “all the private sector jobs lost by women during the Great Recession have been recaptured, but men still have a long way to go.”
Is he right? And what are some facts we can put on the current recovery when it comes to men versus women?
Men had a harder crash during the recession, but a much better recovery, when compared with women.
Indeed, during the first two years of the recovery expert analysis was focused on a situation that was completely reversed from Brooks’
The so-called Global Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, announced July 10 by Walmart, Gap and the Bipartisan Policy Center, was developed without consultation with workers or their representatives and is yet another “voluntary” scheme with no meaningful enforcement mechanisms. Companies that sign onto the alliance but fail to meet a commitment face no adverse consequences beyond expulsion from the scheme. Instead, workers will continue to pay.
In stark contrast, more than 75 corporations from 15 countries, including the United States, have signed the binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety negotiated with Bangladeshi and international unions. The Accord has rules to make real improvements in the safety of garment workers. Workers, unions and worker rights organizations negotiated this agreement with employers and integrated worker safety efforts by governments and the International Labor Organization (ILO). The AFL-CIO and Change to Win, along with global unions IndustriAll and UNI and numerous organizations representing Bangladeshi workers,